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Sexual Assault and Harassment Claims Finally Force Les Moonves, Who Infamously Gloated About How Trump Was Great for Business, Out of CBS

"Women cannot achieve equality in the workplace or society until there is a reckoning and a taking of responsibility."

Les Moonves, longtime head of CBS, resigned from his role on Sunday after new allegations of sexual harassment surfaced. (Photo: Fortune Brainstorm Tech/Flickr/cc)

A second bombshell report alleging he had routinely sexually harassed and assaulted female employees at the network led to the resignation of longtime CBS chairman and CEO Les Moonves Sunday with the network withholding the $180 million severance package he would have been eligible for while it conducts an internal investigation into the allegations.

Speaking to reporter Ronan Farrow at the New Yorker, at least 12 women have now alleged in two articles that Moonves forcibly kissed or touched them, coerced them into performing sexual acts, or threatened their careers over the 24 years he led the company—as well as oversaw a culture of insidious sexual discrimination.

Many progressives were angered two years ago when, as some Americans feared the potential election of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump, Moonves openly celebrated the positive effect Trump's campaign was having on his $2.5 billion network.

"Man, who would have expected the ride we're all having right now?...The money's rolling in and this is fun," Moonves said at the 2016 Morgan Stanley Technology, Media & Telecom Conference. "Sorry. It's a terrible thing to say. But, bring it on, Donald. Keep going."

Moonves's resignation came just three hours after Farrow's second story for the New Yorker was published on Sunday—but weeks after the magazine printed the stories of six women who'd worked at the network and experienced abuse.

In July, actress Ileanna Douglas told Farrow that Moonves had pinned her arms down and forcibly kissed her during a business meeting, and fired her after she refused to participate. Other CBS employees also alleged that he had kissed or touched them without their consent and had cut the network's ties with them when they rejected him.

In Farrow's latest article, both a former TV executive and a former assistant to Moonves said the CEO had forced them to perform oral sex when they worked together.


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"It was very violent, very aggressive," the former assistant, Jessica Pallingston, told Farrow. "There was real hostility in it."

Other women described Moonves exposing himself, groping them, and leading a network where a sexist culture reigned.

In addition to potentially losing his exit deal, Moonves will join with CBS in donating $20 million to groups that support the #MeToo movement.

The women's advocacy group Time's Up, which supports women who have faced sexual harassment and misconduct in the workplace, acknowledged the donation but argued Moonves's entire $180 million severance package should be used to fight the culture which has thrived at CBS.

On "CBS This Morning," anchor Norah O'Donnell addressed the new allegations and Moonves's departure, as she had months ago when her co-host Charlie Rose left the network after several women accused him of harassment.

"There is no excuse for this alleged behavior. It is systematic, and it is pervasive in our culture," O'Donnell said. "And this I know is true, to the core of my being: Women cannot achieve equality in the workplace or society until there is a reckoning and a taking of responsibility. So I'm really proud to work here at CBS News. This has hurt morale, but there are some really, really good people that come to work every single day. As a journalist, I'm confident that the truth is going to come out."

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