Les Moonves Leaves CBS, Will Make $20 Million Donation To Me Too Movement

The network head has been one of the most powerful men in media.

Les Moonves, one of the most powerful men in media, is leaving his position as chairman and CEO of CBS amid multiple allegations of sexual misconduct against him, the company announced Sunday.

Moonves and CBS will donate $20 million to the Me Too movement that will be deducted from any severance benefits Moonves may be owed, the company said. The donation to charities promoting women’s equality in the workplace will come upon the conclusion of an independent investigation into the allegations, according to the statement.

CBS announced Monday that it will pay $120 million to Moonves if an internal investigation into the allegations fails to provide grounds for his dismissal, according to Reuters. He also could wind up with nothing under a settlement agreement, according to the report.

Moonves’ departure comes roughly a month after The New Yorker published an article alleging he harassed several women with unwanted kissing and touching and contributed to the network’s overall toxic workplace culture.

In a statement issued to Variety, Moonves said he was “deeply saddened to be leaving the company.”

“Untrue allegations from decades ago are now being made against me that are not consistent with who I am,” he said in the statement, published Sunday evening. “Effective immediately I will no longer be Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of CBS. I am deeply saddened to be leaving the company. I wish nothing but the best for the organization, the newly comprised board of directors and all of its employees.”

CBS also announced the replacement of six board members with new independent directors. CBS Chief Operating Officer Joseph Ianniello will replace Moonves and serve as the acting president and CEO while the board looks for a more permanent successor.

“Today’s resolution will benefit all shareholders, allowing us to focus on the business of running CBS – and transforming it for the future,” CBS Vice Chair Shari Redstone said in a statement. “We are confident in Joe’s ability to serve as acting CEO and delighted to welcome our new directors, who bring valuable and diverse expertise and a strong commitment to corporate governance.”

On Sunday, The New Yorker published a second report describing additional accusations against Moonves brought by six other women. One of the women said Moonves forced her to perform oral sex on him while they worked together at Lorimar-Telepictures in the 1980s. She filed a criminal complaint with the Los Angeles Police Department last year, though prosecutors declined to pursue charges, citing expired statutes of limitations for the crimes.

The New Yorker’s bombshell exposés by Ronan Farrow, whose reporting on sexual misconduct last year helped drive the Me Too movement, recounted some incidents that allegedly occurred more than 20 years ago, along with more recent allegations, from a total of 12 women. Some of the women said that when they rejected his forcible advances, Moonves became hostile toward them and caused their careers to suffer.

Shortly before the first piece was published, CBS issued a statement that it was looking into claims that the company’s code of conduct had been violated.

“Upon the conclusion of that investigation, which involves recently reported allegations that go back several decades, the Board will promptly review the findings and take appropriate action,” the statement read.

Moonves, 68, had been with CBS since 1995 and was named chairman in 2016. As head of the network, he oversaw the company’s entertainment division, news broadcasts and online content.

Prior to the sexual misconduct allegations, Moonves was criticized for comments he made about the effect that Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy had on CBS’s ratings during the 2016 campaign.

“Sorry, it’s a terrible thing to say, but bring it on, Donald. Keep going,” Moonves said during a March 2016 conference.

“It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS,” he said.

At the time, Trump was commanding more minutes than other candidates during nearly every GOP primary debate and had been afforded plentiful free airtime by calling in to many talk show programs. In many of these interviews, his track record of making xenophobic, racist and often false comments went unchallenged.

This article has been updated to include additional information from CBS’ press release and a statement from Moonves.

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