CBS Head Leslie Moonves Officially Out After New Assault and Harassment Allegations

Les Moonves at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival. Photo by David Shankbone.

On Sunday the news of new allegations against CBS Chairman and C.E.O. Leslie Moonves was dropped in a new report from the New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow saying “six additional women have accused the television executive of sexual misconduct as the board of the CBS Corporation weighs the terms of his departure.”

In an update to Farrow’s own story it was stated:

Update: Three hours after the publication of this story, CNN reported that Moonves would step down from his position at CBS. Later the same day, CBS announced that Moonves had left the company and would not receive any of his exit compensation, pending the results of the independent investigation into the allegations. The company named six new members of its board of directors and said it would donate $20 million to organizations focussed on sexual harassment and assault. The donation will be deducted from any severance payments that may be due to Moonves.

The New Yorker

On July 28 the News Blender reported to readers here and here about Farrow’s first New Yorker release of an eight months investigation into allegations made by six women “who had professional dealings” with Moonves between the 1980’s through the early 2000’s, describing “forcible touching or kissing” during business meetings, allegations that when his sometimes aggressive sexual advances were rebuffed would lead to what they say he “physically intimidated them or threatened to derail their careers.”

At that time, Farrow said, it wasn’t just about Moonves or just about the six women he describes in detail in his reporting, that CBS’ diverse multibillion-dollar corporation with its multiple divisions contained an atmosphere of misconduct at the top, such as reports about Jeff Fager, the executive producer of CBS’s “60-Minutes,” that are still surfacing as Mediaite reported yesterday which describes him as being “on a power trip.”

Farrow wrote then, “Thirty current and former CBS employees described harassment, gender discrimination, or retaliation at the network,” adding details about allegations by many who alleged “that many men accused of misconduct were promoted, even after the company was made aware of those allegations.”

In Farrow’s new report he writes that as a result of his earlier reporting “members of the board of the CBS Corporation are negotiating with the company’s chairman and C.E.O., Leslie Moonves, about his departure,” and that those discussions had begun several weeks ago according to “sources familiar with the board’s activities.”

However, Farrow describes, that even as those negotiations were happening, that while “shareholders and advocacy groups” were accusing the board of “failing to hold Moonves accountable,” there are now six other women coming forward with new allegations of sexual harassment and or assault with some having even more disturbing and graphic details.

“They include claims that Moonves forced them to perform oral sex on him, that he exposed himself to them without their consent, and that he used physical violence and intimidation against them. A number of the women also said that Moonves retaliated after they rebuffed him, damaging their careers.”

Farrow tells Phyllis Golden-Gottlieb’s story, who is now 80 years-old and retired. She describes, in graphic detail, her encounters with Moonves that first happened when Moonves first came to CBS in the late 1980’s that includes forced sexual advances and violent physical attacks resulting in more and more retaliation to the point, she describes, “He absolutely ruined my career.”

Golden-Gottlieb was considered a veteran within the industry, someone who was respected in her already established career in senior positions at NBC, MGM, and Disney. She said she kept quiet all this time because, Farrow writes she said, “she was a single mother supporting two children and feared for her career,” that she “realized he was the new golden boy.”

Golden-Gottlieb said even though her encounters with Moonves never left her, she decided to file charges against Moonves last year, explaining that even as the years passed and she still felt frightened of Moonves she found determination to file criminal charges against him, ‘galvanized,” she said, “by the women speaking out about sexual harassment.”

“They gave me courage,” she said. I saw everyone coming out; I had to.”

Farrow said that while his law enforcement sources told him they “found Golden-Gottlieb’s allegations credible and consistent” the statutes of limitations had run out so prosecutors had to decline to pursue charges.

Farrow says that his sources told him Moonves was informed of Golden-Gottlieb charges last fall but that Moonves failed “to disclose the existence of the criminal investigation to a number of CBS board members until several months later,” and that because the full board was not informed Moonves “was allowed to continue running the company.”

The women who have come forward in Farrow’s new report are all named and give sometimes near-identical recounting of their own personal encounters with Moonves dating back to the nineteen eighties.

Phyllis Golden-Gottlieb; Jessica Pallingston an executive assistant at Warner Bros.; Deborah Green a freelance makeup artist who worked for CBS; Deborah Morris a junior executive at Lorimar; Linda Siverthorn a screenwriter at Warner Bros.

As Moonves is exiting CBS, it will not be without cost to the company. Moonves, Farrow writes, “occupies an unusual position of power” under his contract, which the New Yorker reviewed. While his contract lays out reasons for grounds to fire him, it also “allows him to depart of his own volition, with generous compensation, for a range of reasons, including any diminishment of his responsibilities, or, if, at any time, a majority of the CBS board members change,” giving him, Farrow says, a provision that allows Moonves the ability “to hold sway over the makeup of the board – the group now responsible for investigating him.”

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