CBS has ousted two top executives amid an investigation into claims they created a hostile work environment and one was accused of calling a black TV anchor ‘just a jive guy’ and saying another was ‘too gay for Philadelphia’.
Staff were told on Wednesday that Peter Dunn, president of the CBS Television Stations, and David Friend, senior vice president for news at the stations, were no longer employed by CBS.
Dunn and Friend were suspended in January after an external investigation was launched into claims of a hostile work environment for female and black employees at news operations in some of CBS’ largest individual stations.
The investigation was launched following a report in the Los Angeles Times that detailed the allegations made by employees at the CBS-owned local stations.
CBS chief executive, George Cheeks, sent an email to staff on Wednesday announcing the company had cut ties with the top executives prior to the investigation concluding.
Staff were told on Wednesday that Peter Dunn, president of the CBS Television Stations, and David Friend, senior vice president for news at the stations, were no longer employed by CBS
‘Peter Dunn, President of the CBS Television Stations, and David Friend, Senior Vice President of News for the Stations group, will not return to their positions and will be leaving the company,’ he said.
Cheeks added that the probe ‘is not over and will continue’ and said he appreciated those employees who had already spoken to investigators.
He did not say what the investigation had revealed so far.
‘This entire process, while sometimes painful and emotional, is an important step forward in living up to our promise of a safe, inclusive, respectful and equitable workplace for all of us,’ Cheeks said.
CBS has since defended its decision to cut ties with Dunn and Friend prior to the investigation concluding.
‘While we won’t comment on the specifics of an ongoing investigation, it is clear to us that this action is appropriate and necessary at this time,’ a CBS spokesperson said in a statement.
‘Any decision regarding termination for ’cause’ will be made at the conclusion of the investigation.’
Dunn and Friend have both previously denied any wrongdoing.
Dunn’s attorney has said his client has been the victim of cancel culture.
‘There have been no findings of wrongdoing by Peter Dunn,’ his lawyer said. ‘The situation has gotten to the point that they are making him a scapegoat. In this heightened age of not wanting to offend anyone, lives and reputations are being sacrificed.’
Dunn and Friend were suspended in January after an external investigation was launched into claims of a hostile work environment for female and black employees at news operations in some of CBS’ largest individual stations
Among the allegations being investigated is that Dunn referred to Philadelphia anchor Ukee Washington (pictured above) as ‘just a jive guy’ and ridiculed his on-air dance moves
Dozens of current and former employees at CBS-owned TV stations from Los Angeles to New York had complained of a hostile work environment that allegedly bullied female managers and blocked efforts to hire and retain black journalists.
Since 2009, Dunn had been head of 28 stations owned and operated by CBS in big cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago.
Dunn promoted Friend, who ran new operations at New York’s WCBS-TV, in 2010 to head of the network’s local newsrooms nationwide.
Among the allegations being investigated is that Dunn referred to Philadelphia anchor Ukee Washington as ‘just a jive guy’ and ridiculed his on-air dance moves.
He also allegedly questioned whether a potential candidate for an anchor gig was ‘too gay for Philadelphia’.
The head of the Philadelphia newsroom at the time, Margaret Cronan, eventually quit because she couldn’t tolerate the culture.
She alleged that Friend had belittled her in a meeting with other senior executives by asking her if she was ‘a (expletive) idiot’ and that her attempts to hire black male reporters were quashed.
Following the ousting of both Dunn and Friend, Cronan said: ‘I prayed that CBS executives would make this decision, and I am relieved that they did.
‘There is still much work that needs to be done, but with these two individuals out, there is promise ahead. There’s hope – and that’s something that those who have worked in that division of CBS haven’t felt in a long time.’