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CBS chief quits after new sex misconduct claims and makes $20m #MeToo donation

Les Moonves has been with the network since 1995.

CBS chief Les Moonves has resigned after six more women accused the long-time television executive of sexual misconduct.

The resignation is effective immediately, CBS said in a statement posted on its website on Sunday night.

The network did not address the allegations directly, but said Mr Moonves will donate 20 million dollars to one or more organisations that support the #MeToo movement and equality for women in the workplace.

The New Yorker magazine reported the latest allegations included Mr Moonves forcing women to perform oral sex and retaliating when advances were turned away.

Mr Moonves acknowledged relations with three of the women but said they were consensual, adding he had never used his position to hurt the careers of women.

“The donation, which will be made immediately, has been deducted from any severance benefits that may be due Moonves,” the CBS statement said.

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Les Moonves’ resignation is effective immediately, CBS said (Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

CBS said the network’s chief operating officer, Joseph Ianniello, will take over Mr Moonves’ duties as president and chief executive until its board of directors can find a permanent replacement.

For the time being Mr Moonves’ role as chairman will remain vacant.

Hours before Mr Moonves’ resignation, the New Yorker magazine reported sexual misconduct allegations from six additional women against Mr Moonves, who was already under investigation for similar allegations made by six others.

As that investigation progressed it was widely reported that Mr Moonves would leave the network shortly and was negotiating a severance package.

CBS indicated on Sunday, however, that no severance agreement has been reached.

“Moonves will not receive any severance benefits at this time (other than certain fully accrued and vested compensation and benefits); any payments to be made in the future will depend upon the results of the independent investigation and subsequent board evaluation,” the network’s statement said.

Mr Moonves joined CBS as head of entertainment in 1995, and has been chief executive of CBS Corp since 2006, leading the CBS network, Showtime and other entities.

CBS has spent much of his tenure as the nation’s most popular broadcast network, with hits such as The Big Bang Theory and NCIS, and its success has made Mr Moonves one of the highest-paid and most powerful executives in the business.

One of Mr Moonves’ accusers, Phyllis Golden-Gottlieb, also reported her accusations to Los Angeles police last year, but they were not pursued because the statute of limitations had expired.

She said Mr Moonves, while an executive at the Lorimar production studio in the late 1980s, pushed her head into his lap and forced her to perform oral sex.

At another time, she said an angry Moonves pushed her hard against a wall. When she resisted later advances, she began to be frozen out at the company, she said.

“He absolutely ruined my career,” she told the New Yorker.

Another woman, Jessica Pallingston, said Moonves forced her to perform oral sex on her first day working as his assistant at Warner Bros productions. Other women told the magazine of unwanted touching or advances.

In a statement to the magazine, Mr Moonves said the “appalling accusations” are untrue, but he acknowledged consensual relations with three of the women before he started working at CBS.

“I have never used my position to hinder the advancement or careers of women,” he said.

“In my 40 years of work, I have never before heard of such disturbing accusations.

“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 organisation Time’s Up, which fights accusations of sexual misconduct, said the women had made “bone-chilling” accusations against Mr Moonves.

“Remember that the world is watching,” Time’s Up said in a statement.

“We will accept nothing less than full transparency of the investigation’s findings, a commitment to real change across all levels of CBS management and no reward for Les Moonves.”

Mr Ianniello, who will be replacing Moonves on at least an interim basis, joined CBS in 2005 and has been chief operating officer since 2013. He has steered top projects such as the CBS All Access and Showtime streaming services.

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