Moonves exits as CBS remains in the #MeToo spotlight

Leslie Moonves, CBS CEO and one of the most powerful men in the media industry, resigned his position on Sunday, ending six weeks of uncertainty about his future. His exit was hastened by new reporting of sexual assault and harassment claims against him, and his departure marks the first of a Fortune 500 CEO to leave amid misconduct allegations in the #MeToo era.

Moonves’s future was thrown into doubt on July 27, when six women accused him of sexual misconduct in a piece by The New Yorker’s Ronan Farrow. In a sign of just how much power he had built, Moonves maintained his position at the network as the company launched investigations into the claims. But on Sunday, Farrow published another piece, in which an additional six women came forward with claims about Moonves, including allegations of non-consensual sexual assault, physical violence, and retaliation after his advances were rebuffed.

Farrow tweeted that many of the women who spoke with him for the piece published on Sunday were upset that the CBS Board decided not to suspend Moonves after the July story was published, adding: “Reports that the board was also in negotiations about his potential voluntary exit, accompanied by lavish compensation, were upsetting to many of the women with allegations.”

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What, if any, compensation Moonves will receive depends on the outcome of the investigations CBS had commissioned. According to the company’s announcement, Moonves and CBS will immediately donate $20 million to “one or more organizations that support the #MeToo movement and equality for women in the workplace.” That money will be deducted from any severance that Moonves receives.

Moonves becomes the latest powerful man in media to depart after allegations of sexual assault or harassment. As The New York Times’s Edmund Lee notes, men like Moonves, Harvey Weinstein, Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, Matt Lauer, and Charlie Rose “spent years determining what TV shows, movies and news programs millions of Americans watched on a daily basis.” Lee adds: “The wave of scandals is a stark reminder of how male-dominated the entertainment and news industries remain, especially in their upper ranks.”

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Below, more on the stunning downfall of one of the media industry’s most powerful figures.

  • More on CBS’s shake-up: Chief Operating Officer Joseph Ianniello will take over as acting CEO while a search for a permanent replacement is held. The Sunday announcement also marked the end of hostilities between the CBS Corp. and its largest shareholder. CNN’s Brian Stelter has more on the details of that dispute.
  • Moonves’s statement: After the announcement of his departure, Moonves issued a statement that said he was “deeply saddened” to be leaving CBS, and addressed Farrow’s reporting, saying, “Untrue allegations from decades ago are now being made against me that are not consistent with who I am.”
  • What’s next?: Farrow’s Sunday story included an additional allegation of inappropriate touching against 60 Minutes EP Jeff Fager, whose behavior was a major part of the July story. Fager remains on the job, and though Moonves’s departure answers one question hanging over the network, CBS has a lot of explaining to do about the company culture as it’s depicted in Farrow’s reporting.

 

Other notable stories:

  • The Washington Post’s David Nakamura examines the way President Trump uses official events to wage campaign against press. “Trump routinely rails against the press corps on Twitter and at his campaign rallies,” Nakamura writes. “But he has begun eliciting cheers of support during more-official settings and from audiences once thought to be more immune to naked partisanship.”
  • Up this morning, The New Yorker’s Evan Osnos has a profile of Mark Zuckerberg, examining the Facebook CEO’s actions as he deals with a public reckoning with the power of Big Tech.
  • New York Times Op-Ed Page Editor James Dao answered reader questions about the decision to publish an anonymous piece by a “senior administration official.”
  • For CJR, M.L. Elrick profiled Anchor Bar, “perhaps the last great journalism bar in America.” His excellent lede: “One of my first journalistic ambitions was to get my photo on the wall behind the bar at the Anchor. Then I realized that everyone pictured above the bar was dead.”
  • The Washington Post’s Sally Jenkins received a round of deserved praise for her coverage of the US Open Women’s Final, which featured a confrontation between the match official and Serena Williams. The standout line: “Williams abused her racket, but [Chair official Carlos] Ramos did something far uglier: He abused his authority.”

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Pete Vernon is a CJR staff writer. Follow him on Twitter @ByPeteVernon.