Embattled CBS Corp. chief executive Leslie Moonves is facing new allegations of sexual misconduct, amid news reports that he will soon step down following previous accusations.
In a report Sunday in the New Yorker, six women alleged incidents of sexual harassment and assault between the 1980s and early 2000s that included forced oral sex, exposing himself without consent and the use of physical violence and intimidation to silence them, Ronan Farrow reported. The article followed a similar New Yorker report from July featuring six other women.
The women also claim CBS has perpetuated a culture of downplaying accusations and fostering a hostile environment.
CBS Corp. did not return a request for comment.
Multiple news organizations reported Sunday that Moonves, who had been negotiating terms for his departure, will step down imminently. He would be the most prominent entertainment and media figure unseated by claims of sexual harassment in the wave of #MeToo allegations rocking the industry.
In a statement to the New Yorker, Moonves, who is also chairman of the CBS board, said three of the encounters were consensual, but he denied the others.
“The appalling accusations in this article are untrue. 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. In my 40 years of work, I have never before heard of such disturbing accusations,” Moonves said.
“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.”
The women have said that Moonves forced himself on them, and that their careers suffered after they rejected his advances.
“What happened to me was a sexual assault, and then I was fired for not participating,” actress and writer Illeana Douglas told the magazine in the July report. Writer Janet Jones, who alleged that Moonves forcibly kissed her at a work meeting and that she had to shove him away, said Moonves “has gotten away with it for decades.”
Moonves is the latest entertainment and media figure whose alleged behavior has come to light throughout the #MeToo movement. Farrow previously published a Pulitzer Prize-winning report about now-disgraced movie producer Harvey Weinstein.
Moonves had nearly $70 million in earnings last year, and CBS has held the top spot in network ratings for a decade under his leadership.
The CBS board has offered Moonves about $100 million in stock for his departure following several rounds of negotiations, CNBC reported Thursday, citing sources close to the talks – though it is probable the new allegations will complicate any deal.
The board wants conditions to recover some of the money if the allegations are confirmed, CNBC reported, though it is not clear whether there were conditions for a similar clawback if more accusers stepped forward.
Time’s Up, an advocacy group that focuses on equal treatment in the workplace, said the board had an obligation to create a safe work environment and called on the body to be transparent with its investigative findings.
“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 group said in a statement provided to The Washington Post.
One of the women who spoke to Farrow in his Sunday report, longtime television executive Phyllis Golden-Gottlieb, said she filed a criminal complaint with police to report incidents that occurred as early as 1986, but the statute of limitations had expired. She and Moonves worked together at Lorimar-Telepictures.
Farrow reported that tension has permeated the company, with law firm investigators seeking interviews with staffers as other men in senior positions are accused of similar assaults. Jeff Fager, executive producer of “60 Minutes,” has been accused by several women who said he inappropriately touched them.
“I really felt like this was one of the most sexist places I’ve ever worked,” Sarah Johansen, who previously worked as an intern at CBS for Fager, told Farrow.
CBS Corp. also oversees the publishing house Simon & Schuster and the premium cable network Showtime.
The Washington Post writers Elahe Izadi and Emily Yahr contributed to this report.
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If you or someone you know needs resources or support related to sexual violence, contact the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault’s 24/7 hotline at 1-800-871-7741.