Les Moonves is leaving his position as CEO of CBS, Variety reports, after a new wave of sexual assault and harassment allegations surfaced. Chief operating officer Joe Ianniello will take over as interim CEO.
The new New Yorker report, by Ronan Farrow, details claims against Moonves from six more women, on top of the allegations the journalist reported in July. The news comes three days after a Huffington Post report claimed that Moonves had tried to destroy Janet Jackson’s career following 2004 Super Bowl “wardrobe malfunction.”
Among the claims made in both waves of allegations are that Moonves has a habit of setting up meetings with women, making sure no one else but him is around, and then making aggressive sexual advances. They also said Moonves tried to sabotage their careers when they rejected his advances. Despite the charges, Moonves remained in charge while CBS, where he’s been for 23 years, launched an in-house investigation.
A mere investigation may not happen again. Moonves is believed to be departing his position entirely in light of Farrow’s new report. The claims date back to the 1980s and run up through the 2000s.
Among the new accusers is Phyllis Golden-Gottlieb, a now-retired TV executive who once worked at the Lorimar production company with Moonves. She accused Moonves of forcing her to perform oral sex on him while driving her to lunch. She didn’t say anything at the time, because he was the new “golden boy” at the studio. She did file a criminal complaint last year, but the LAPD couldn’t pursue the case because statute of limitations had passed, despite finding her claims “credible and consistent.”
Golden-Gottlieb says she tried to avoid being alone with Moonves, but one day he allegedly exposed himself to her in his office, causing her to run out. Later, she claims, Moonves grabbed her and threw her against the wall over a misunderstanding over an unsent memo. He proceeded to move her into smaller and smaller offices in an effort to make her job more difficult.
The five other new accusers have similar stories of sexual assault followed by revenge and sabotage, and sometimes even physical threats.
In a letter to the New Yorker, Moonves called the accusations untrue and claimed three of the encounters were consensual, though he didn’t specify which. “I have never used my position to hinder the advancement or careers of women,” Moonves said. “In my 40 years of work, I have never before heard of such disturbing accusations. I can only surmise they are surfacing now for the first time, decades later, as part of a concerted effort by others to destroy my name, my reputation, and my career. Anyone who knows me knows that the person described in this article is not me.”
CBS and Moonves have been called on to donate $20 million to organizations that support the #MeToo movement. There have, however, been criticisms over the potential size of Moonves’ severance package, which may be over $100 million, meaning he’ll be making money off of the ordeal.