Two CBS local television executives have been placed on administrative leave after the National Association of Black Journalists demanded they be fired because they are allegedly a couple of bigots who have “cultivated a hostile work environment” by making racist and sexist comments and by blocking the hiring and retaining of Black journalists for racist and sexist reasons.
It all started after a story was published by the Los Angeles Times on Sunday detailing an investigation into senior executives’ alleged mistreatment of CBS station employees of color and female employees in Philadelphia, which the Times described as “the nation’s fourth-largest media market.” The call for the firing of two executives—CBS Television Stations President Peter Dunn, and Senior Vice President David Friend—came just hours after the Times report was released.
The report included images of a Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission complaint filed by a former employee who has accused Dunn of making “racist, sexist, homophobic and discriminatory comments.”
According to CBS News, the network released a statement saying that both Dunn and Friend “have been placed on administrative leave, pending the results of a third-party investigation into issues that include those raised in [the] recent Los Angeles Times report.”
From CBS News:
Among the allegations reported in the Los Angeles Times story, two former employees in management positions at CBS’ Philadelphia station said Dunn used the word “jive” on multiple occasions to describe anchor and well-known Philadelphia journalist Ukee Washington.
In another allegation, one of the employees said that when Dunn refused to extend the contract of a Black female anchor, he “raised ‘bizarre objections,’ such as saying, ‘I hate her face.’”
That same employee claimed Dunn also questioned whether a job applicant for another anchor position was “too gay for Philadelphia.”
Friend is accused by the two former employees of inappropriate workplace behavior, including criticizing a new anchor’s accent, and screaming that she should shut the [expletive] up.”
“The troubling issues raised in the story are not just confined to one TV station,” NABJ wrote in a statement released Monday. “NABJ has heard from numerous CBS employees across the country and has been made aware of multiple lawsuits and investigations. It is clear that there is a massive problem among CBS owned-and-operated stations, and in order for the company’s culture to be transformed, it must begin with the firing of Dunn and Friend.”
The Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) also got wind of the Times article and provided The Root with the following statement:
SAG-AFTRA read with shock and disgust the L.A. Times article by reporter Meg James regarding management’s behavior with regard to hiring and employment decisions at CBS Philadelphia station KYW-TV. We were stunned to see the comments attributed to CBS’s national management team in internal emails and other testimony related to employees of KYW-TV, including members of SAG-AFTRA. SAG-AFTRA is requesting a meeting with CBS labor relations as well as station management to address these most recent revelations.
SAG-AFTRA has addressed issues of diversity, equity and inclusion at KYW-TV, both in the negotiation and enforcement of the union agreement. Most recently, SAG-AFTRA achieved a significant increase in an essential compensation element of the union agreement with KYW-TV to address a gender pay equity concern.
We have encouraged CBS and other employers across the country to make a meaningful commitment to fairness, equity, and diversity in hiring, assignment, compensation, training opportunities and advancement in broadcast news organizations. Our membership is committed to the principle that radio, television, and online news organizations should truly represent and reflect the communities they serve.
Of course, the two executives and their representatives deny that they have been engaging in bigoted behavior or discriminatory hiring practices.
ViacomCBS told the Times in a statement that “in response to a CBS investigation in early 2019, senior management at the time addressed the situation with Mr. Dunn, and the company has not received any complaints about his conduct during the period since then.” (“OK, but what racist shit have you accused him of lately?” is a strange defense, but whatever.)
Meanwhile, Friend told the Times he only made comments that “based on performance or qualifications—not about anyone’s race or gender.” He also claimed the stations he runs have “a strong track record of hiring, supporting and placing women and BIPOC journalists in important roles as anchors, reporters and news directors.”