NEW YORK (AP) — Longtime CBS new chief Les Moonves resigned Sunday, just hours after six more women joined others who had previously accused the long-time television executive with sexual misconduct.
Moonves’s resignation is effective immediately, CBS said in a statement posted on its website Sunday night.
The network didn’t address the sexual harassment allegations directly, but said Moonves will donate $20 million to one or more organizations that support the #MeToo movement and equality for women in the workplace.
“The donation, which will be made immediately, has been deducted from any severance benefits that may be due Moonves,” the statement added.
In the wake of the resignation, CBS Chief Operating Officer Joseph Ianniello will take over Moonves’ duties as president and CEO until the network’s board of directors finds a permanent replacement. CBS said Moonves’ position as chairman will remain open for now.
Hours before Moonves’ resignation, New Yorker magazine reported sexual misconduct from six additional women against Moonves, who was already under investigation for previous allegations.
The New Yorker magazine reported the women’s new accusations included Moonves forcing them to perform oral sex and retaliating when advances were turned away. Moonves acknowledged relations with three of the women but said they were consensual, and that he had never used his position to hurt the careers of women.
Six other women accused Moonves of misconduct in another New Yorker article published last month. Even before the new allegations came to light on Sunday, CBS’ board was reportedly discussing terms of Moonves’ exit. A spokesman for the board did not immediately return requests for comment.
Moonves joined CBS as head of entertainment in 1995, and has been CEO of CBS Corp. since 2006, leading the CBS network, Showtime and other entities. CBS has spent much of his tenure as the nation’s most popular broadcast network, with hits such as “The Big Bang Theory” and “NCIS,” and its success has made Moonves one of the highest-paid and most powerful executives in the business.
He remained on the job despite the earlier allegations, and there were earlier reports that he was negotiating a buyout from his contract.
One of the women, Phyllis Golden-Gottlieb, reported her accusations to Los Angeles police last year, but they weren’t pursued because of the statute of limitations. She said that Moonves, while an executive at the Lorimar production studio in the late 1980s, pushed her head into his lap and forced her to perform oral sex.
At another time, she said an angry Moonves pushed her hard against a wall. When she resisted later advances, she began to be frozen out at the company, she said.
“He absolutely ruined my career,” she told the magazine.
Another woman, Jessica Pallingston, said Moonves had forced her to perform oral sex on her first day working as his assistant at Warner Bros. productions. Other women told the magazine of unwanted touching or advances by Moonves.
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.
“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.”
CBS, in a statement Sunday, said it takes the allegations “very seriously” and is conducting an investigation. The network is also investigating Jeff Fager, former CBS News chairman and executive producer of “60 Minutes,” on charges that he condoned a hostile atmosphere to women.
The organization Time’s Up, which fights accusations of sexual misconduct, said the women had made “bone-chilling” accusations against Moonves. “We believe them,” Times’ Up said in a statement on Sunday.
Time’s Up said the CBS board has a responsibility to rid the company of a toxic culture toward women.
“Remember that the world is watching,” the statement said. “We will accept nothing less than full transparency of the investigation’s findings, a commitment to real change across all levels of CBS management and no reward for Les Moonves.”
A likely successor to Moonves, at least on an interim basis, is Chief Operating Officer Joseph Ianniello, analysts said. Ianniello, who has held his current position since 2013, has steered top projects such as the CBS All Access and Showtime streaming services.