CBS executives leaving company after reports of “racist” and “sexist” comments

Two CBS local television executives are leaving the company, following a January investigation by the Los Angeles Times into allegations they “cultivated a hostile work environment.”

The departures of the two executives, Peter Dunn and David Friend, were announced Wednesday in an internal company email by CBS Entertainment Group President and CEO George Cheeks.

“We have determined that CBS Stations President Peter Dunn and SVP of News David Friend are not returning to their positions and will be leaving the Company,” Cheeks wrote.

The January 24 Los Angeles Times story included images of a Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission complaint filed by a former employee who accused Dunn of making “racist, sexist, homophobic and discriminatory comments.” 

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.”

In a January 26 statement to CBS News after he was initially placed on leave, an attorney for Dunn said he was “extremely proud of his record in creating a highly talented and diverse workplace. He is confident that he has always acted properly, and that any investigation will confirm this.”

Friend told the Los Angeles Times in January that any comments he made about employees or candidates “were only based on performance or qualifications — not about anyone’s race or gender.”

“I believe that I — and our stations — have a strong track record of hiring, supporting and placing women and BIPOC journalists in important roles as anchors, reporters and news directors,” Friend said in a statement to the paper.

Cheeks said in Wednesday’s email that an investigation stemming from the allegations is “not over and will continue.”

“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.

Ernest Owens, president of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists, said in a phone call with CBS News that Dunn’s and Friend’s departures were “long overdue.”

“It’s a great first start. Their departure will hopefully be a sense of relief for employees at the company who had to be under the shadow of a lot of problematic behavior,” Owens said.

The Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists announced on March 4 a new partnership with CBS’ Philadelphia station, stemming from conversations that followed the Los Angeles Times’ investigation. Owens said the new partnership is geared toward increasing diversity, equity, and inclusion at the station, as well as community outreach.

Owens said the company should be upfront with employees about details of the investigation and the terms of the executives’ departures. It was not immediately clear if either executive received severance pay.

“I think that there needs to be more clarity and that as a media company, as a media institution, CBS should be fully transparent,” Owens said.

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