CBS had already been investigating allegations of sexual assault which appeared in The New Yorker in July. On 8 September, the same publication reported on new allegations from six women, prompting Moonves' exit.
The 8 September story included allegations Moonves forced women to perform oral sex on him, was physically violent towards a number of women and exposed himself to them. The claims span from the 1980s to the 2000s.
These reports build on the earlier story’s allegations from six other women that Moonves forcibly touched and kissed them. The women said they feared Moonves, one of the most powerful media executives in the country, would damage their careers if they spoke out.
Breaking News: Les Moonves, one of TV's most powerful executives, is out at CBS, the same day a report detailed new sexual harassment allegations against him.https://t.co/zoLuWhK3RJ
— The New York Times (@nytimes) September 9, 2018
Moonves denies all allegations from the 12 women
“He has gotten away with it for decades,” said writer Janet Jones, who alleged that she had to push Moonves away after he forcibly kissing her during a meeting. “It’s just not O.K.”
Moonves denied all the allegations and called the recent report “appalling”.
“What is true is that I had consensual relations with three of the women some 25 years ago before I came to CBS,” Moonves said in a statement.
“And I have never used my position to hinder the advancement or careers of women. In my 40 years of work, I have never before heard of such disturbing accusations.”
Les Moonves is reportedly out at CBS, and without his rumored $100 million compensation https://t.co/GqsIfdwF5N
— VANITY FAIR (@VanityFair) September 9, 2018
CBS investigating allegations against Moonves, severance payout on hold
The Time’s Up movement, started by Hollywood celebrities in response to the #MeToo movement, issued a statement on the claims against Moonves.
“These allegations speak to a culture of toxic complicity at CBS, where the safety of women was continuously ignored to protect the careers of powerful men and the corporation,” the statement said.
“The CBS Board of Directors has an obligation to move swiftly and decisively to create a safe work environment for all and rid the company of this toxic culture.”
CBS had initially resisted calls to force Moonves out but just hours after the second story was published realised his position had become untenable. He will resign with immediate effect.
Joseph Ianniello, who has been CBS’ Chief Operating Officer since 2013 will move into the vacated President and CEO role while the board recruits a new CEO.
BREAKING: Leslie Moonves will depart as Chairman, President and CEO of CBS Corp, effective immediately. COO Joseph Ianniello will serve as President and acting CEO while the Board conducts a search for a permanent successor. https://t.co/dIRdYsaPrX pic.twitter.com/pytNgTYqtw
— CBS News (@CBSNews) September 9, 2018
Initial reports suggested Moonves could get a severance package of up to US$280 million but CBS said Moonves would not receive any such payout until an investigation into the sexual harassment allegations had been completed. He will also donate US$20 million to organisations supporting the #MeToo movement.
Moonves had actually tried to paint himself as a vocal supporter of the movement and was a founding member of a group called the Commission on Sexual Harassment and Advancing Equality in the Workplace.