CBS has set in motion “an external investigation” into allegations of racist and misogynist behavior by senior executives at its local-TV unit, a sign that the ViacomCBS company continues to grapple with these issues even though it has probed them in the recent past.
In a memo sent to staffers Friday, George Cheeks, CEO of CBS Entertainment Group, said the company had hired Keisha-Ann Gray, an attorney from the law firm Proskauer Rose, to examine recent allegations of misconduct levied by a report in the Los Angeles Times that raised issues about the conduct of Peter Dunn, president of CBS Television Stations, and David Friend, senior vice president of news for the stations. The two executives were placed on administrative leave Monday.
“Keisha-Ann is highly experienced in this work, and we believe she is well-suited to examine this matter thoroughly and thoughtfully,” Cheeks said in the memo. “Please be aware that she may reach out to some of you directly as part of the investigation.”
The Times report, based on interviews with female employees at CBS local stations, alleged that Dunn and Friend “cultivated a hostile work environment that included bullying female managers and blocking efforts to hire and retain Black journalists.” The National Association of Black Journalists on Monday said some of its officers had met with CBS executives on Sunday evening including Cheeks and Marva Smalls, the company’s executive vice president and global head of inclusion, to discuss what the organization called “a massive problem among CBS owned-and-operated stations.”
The situation has also drawn the eye of the top executive at ViacomCBS. “To be clear: our company takes any allegation of misconduct very seriously, which is why we have moved quickly to engage an external investigator to conduct a review of this matter,’ said ViacomCBS CEO Bob Bakish, in a separate memo. “Importantly, we are encouraging employees to assist in the investigation by coming forward to share their concerns.”
More to come…