On the heels of Leslie Moonves‘ resignation as chairman and CEO of CBS, the CBS This Morning co-anchors acknowledged his exit, and the sexual assault allegations that prompted it, on Monday’s broadcast.
“This is really hard. This is hard for everybody at CBS News… I think the most powerful media executive in America has now resigned in the wake of this Me Too movement, and he’s my boss,” co-host Norah O’Donnell began. “That makes it really hard to comment on it. Les has always treated me fairly and with respect. Still, for me, it’s been another sleepless night thinking about this — the pain that women feel, the courage that it takes for women to come forward and talk about this.”
O’Donnell went on to reinforce the statement she’d made when her former co-host Charlie Rose had been ousted from CBS last November, following sexual misconduct allegations from multiple women.
“There is no excuse for this alleged behavior. It is systematic, and it is pervasive in our culture,” O’Donnell said in a near-verbatim reiteration of her November comments. “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.”
She continued: “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 am confident that the truth is going to come out because this is being investigated… This has to end.”
Co-host John Dickerson said he was “really proud” of O’Donnell’s response, adding that he “couldn’t agree more” with her statement, particularly after speaking with a close friend of his who had been through similar sexual harassment.
Moonves — whose exit from CBS had been rumored for several months — stepped down Sunday night after a second New Yorker story revealed sexual assault allegations from six more women, including veteran television executive Phyllis Golden-Gottlieb and Moonves’ former assistant Jessica Pallingston. Moonves’ accusers said that, among other things, he physically restrained them, forced them to perform oral sex on him and became verbally abusive when they rebuffed his advances.
In a statement, Moonves called the women’s claims “untrue allegations from decades ago” and said their stories are “not consistent with who I am.”
Per CBS, Moonves’ departure is effective immediately. Chief Operating Officer Joseph Ianniello will serve as President and Acting CEO while the CBS Board searches for a permanent successor. In addition, CBS will donate $20 million of Moonves’ potential severance to one or more organizations that support the #MeToo movement and gender equality in the workplace.