Three hours after The New Yorker published new allegations of sexual harassment against CBS CEO Leslie Moonves, the network reported that Moonves had left the company and would not receive any of his compensation package until after an independent investigation into the allegations. CBS also said it would donate $20 million from any severance payments due to Moonves to organizations that support the #metoo movement and workplace equality for women.
Allegations of Moonves’ sexual misconduct have been swirling for months. In August, actress Illena Douglas was one of six women who came forward with claims they were sexually assaulted by the CEO of the multimillion-dollar company. Dozens of other complaints were uncovered at the time and CBS board of directors hired outside counsel to investigate the claims.
Douglas claimed that she was pinned down on the couch by the powerful CBS executive and felt like a “trapped animal” as she fended off unwanted, violent kisses. “What it feels like to have someone hold you down – you can’t breathe, you can’t move … the physicality of it was horrendous,” she told The New Yorker in an August article about Moonves’ alleged harassment.
The latest The New Yorker article identified six additional women who are making similar accusations of harassment or assault, as well as claims of physical violence and intimidation against them. Some women claim Moonves caused their careers to suffer.
One of the latest accusers, veteran television executive Phyllis Golden-Gottlieb, reported that in separate incidents the 1980s, Moonves had forced her to perform oral sex on him, exposed himself to her and threw her against the wall. Late last year, she filed a criminal complaint against the CEO. Legal action wasn’t pursued by prosecutors because the statute of limitations had run out.
Last week, reports began circulating of Moonves’ potential departure with an estimated exit package of upwards of $100 million, which caused an uproar among several of his accusers. Upon the announcement of Moonves’ ousting, the board of directors announced they would withhold his exit package until the investigation is completed.
In a statement, Moonves admitted to three of the encounters but claimed they were all consensual. “I have never used my position to hinder the advancement or careers of women,” his statement read. “In my 40 years of work, I have never before heard 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.”
The New Yorker