Leslie Moonves has resigned from his position as chairman and chief executive of CBS without severance, after six more women stepped forward on Sunday to accuse him of sexual harassment or assault going back to the 1980s.
Ronan Farrow reported the new allegations in a New Yorker piece. Six other women interviewed by Farrow previously said Moonves sexually harassed or assaulted them. Moonves, 68, has denied the allegations.
“Leslie Moonves will depart as Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer effective immediately,” CBS said in a statement on Sunday afternoon.
CBS said Moonves would not receive any severance benefits at this time, and any future payments would be dependent on the outcome of an independent investigation currently taking place.
According to the statement, Moonves and CBS will donate $20m to one or more organisations that support the #MeToo movement and equality for women in the workplace. This donation will be deducted from any severance benefits that may be due Moonves following the investigation.
It was reported earlier this week that an exit deal could grant Moonves as much as $100m in stock.
Jessica Pallingston, a writer who is among the six women to step forward most recently, told Farrow talk of such an exit package for Moonves was “completely disgusting” and said: “He should take all that money and give it to an organization that helps survivors of sexual abuse.”
Also among the latest group of alleged victims to step forward was Phyllis Golden-Gottlieb, a veteran TV executive who alleged Moonves forced her to perform oral sex on him in the 1980s and who filed a criminal complaint last year with the Los Angeles police department in connection with multiple incidents.
Law enforcement sources told Farrow the allegations were “credible and consistent” but were not pursued given the time that had elapsed since the events concerned allegedly occurred.
Farrow has led the way in exposing sexual abuse by powerful men and amplifying the voices of victims speaking out as part of the #MeToo movement. He shared a Pulitzer prize this year with the New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, for reporting on alleged sexual assault by former Miramax head Harvey Weinstein.
In a statement to the New Yorker, Moonves denied the new accusations.
“The appalling accusations in this article are untrue,” he said. “What is true is that I had consensual relations with three of the women some 25 years ago before I came to CBS. And I have never used my position to hinder the advancement or careers of women.”
Farrow reported that “Moonves declined to specify which three encounters he considered consensual”.
The CBS board of directors told the New Yorker the company takes the allegations “very seriously” and “is committed to a thorough and independent investigation of the allegations, and that investigation is actively under way”.
Other alleged victims of Moonves to have recently stepped forward include Deborah Green, a freelance makeup artist; Deborah Morris, a junior executive; Linda Silverthorn, a screenwriter; and Deborah Kitay, a massage therapist.
Farrow also interviewed Debra Williams, a former spa director at the Four Seasons hotel in Washington DC who said female masseuses regularly accused Moonves of inappropriate conduct.
“I was, like, ‘Damn, this guy runs CBS’,” said Williams. “This is a big deal’.”