The Associated Press
NEW YORK–The #MeToo movement fighting sexual misconduct already had claimed one of Hollywood’s top movie moguls in Harvey Weinstein.
Now it has done the same for Leslie Moonves–one of the television industry’s most powerful executives.
The CBS Corp. announced its chairman’s exit late yesterday, hours after The New Yorker magazine posted a story with a second round of ugly accusations against Moonves.
A total of 12 women have alleged mistreatment, including forced oral sex, groping, and retaliation if they resisted him.
Moonves denied the charges in a pair of statements, although he said he had consensual relations with three of the women.
CBS said $20 million will be donated to one or more organizations that support #MeToo and workplace equality for women.
That sum will be deducted from any severance due Moonves–a figure that won’t be determined until an outside investigation led by a pair of law firms is finished.
The network’s chief operating officer, Joseph Ianniello, will take over Moonves’ duties as president and CEO until its board of directors can find a permanent replacement, CBS said.
It has been nearly a year since Pulitzer Prize-winning articles by The New York Times and the New Yorker exposed a pattern of misconduct by Weinstein, who now faces sex crime charges in New York.
Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, and Kevin Spacey are among other figures that lost jobs after men and women came forward with their own stories–often on social media with the hashtag MeToo–about sexually-inappropriate behaviour by powerful men.
Moonves ruled first the programming, then the full network and other corporate entities such as Showtime for two decades.
CBS consistently has been the most-watched network on television–even as changes transformed the industry, first with cable networks investing in shows and then streaming services like Netflix.
He’s been paid handsomely for his success, earning just under $70 million in both 2017 and 2016.
Yet accusations emerged against the affable, raspy-voiced former actor last month when six women accused him of misconduct similar to what came out yesterday.
CBS announced an internal probe yet Moonves, who also was involved in a separate power struggle that threatened his future control of the company, remained in charge.
In recent days, however, reports leaked that the CBS board and Moonves, 68, were discussing an exit plan. Reports that it could include a multi-million-dollar payout provoked some online anger.
The latest allegations were not addressed in CBS’ announcement of Moonves’ exit.
In a statement to the magazine, Moonves said the “appalling accusations” are untrue, but he acknowledged consensual relations with three of the women before he started working at CBS.
Moonves was married at the time; he divorced his first wife and married CBS on-air personality Julie Chen in 2004.
“I have never used my position to hinder the advancement or careers of women,” he 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.”