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Two High-Ranking CBS Executives Suspended, Under Investigation After Exposé Shows Them as Racist, Sexist: ‘This Is Pretty Much Corporate America’

Two CBS executives have been suspended and are under investigation for racist and sexist behavior after an extensive report about their alleged longstanding discriminatory conduct was published in the Los Angeles Times.

According to the Times, Peter Dunn and David Friend have both been placed on administrative leave as the company investigates accusations of discrimination against Black and female journalists when it comes to hiring, retention and fair treatment.

CBS released a statement which said Dunn and Friend have been “placed on administrative leave, pending the results of a third-party investigation into issues that include those raised in a recent Los Angeles Times report. CBS is committed to a diverse, inclusive and respectful workplace where all voices are heard, claims are investigated and appropriate action is taken where necessary.”

CBS executives Peter Dunn (left) and David Friend (right) suspended following investigation. (CBS News Screesnhot)

The suspension came a day after the Times published an in-depth piece detailing allegation stemming from employees at CBS-owned television stations. The division includes 28 stations and 2,800 employees which provide news to millions in major markets, including Philadelphia, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and Dallas.

Dunn, 61, is the president of the division and Friend is the senior vice president of news, and the two are considered to be simpatico in their decision-making and managerial approach at. CBS. They have been accused of being “hostile,” “racist” and “crude,” according to legal papers viewed by the Times.

The report, which especially explores alleged problems at the Philadelphia station, cites numerous examples — including Dunn referring to Philadelphia station KYW lead anchor Ukee Washington, who is a Black Philadelphia native, as “just a jive guy.” Dunn also said of Washington, “All he does is dance … dancing, dancing,” former KYW general manager Brien Kennedy told the Times.

When Kennedy and then-newsroom manager Margaret Cronan suggested promoting Washington — who is a distant cousin of actor Denzel Washington — to lead anchor in 2016, they said Dunn replied, “He’s not doing that ‘jive talking’ anymore? Sometimes, he’s just not speaking my language.”

“I was shocked that a corporate head would use words like that to describe an African-American,” Cronan told the Times. “Besides, Ukee was such a valuable asset to viewers and internally to our team. I couldn’t believe Peter Dunn would even be questioning his performance.”

The duo said Dunn also dished out similar treatment to others, including trying to first block, then terminating the employment of former KYW morning anchor Brooke Thomas, a talented Black journalist.

“Neither David nor Peter liked her, but they finally, begrudgingly, gave us the thumbs-up,” Cronan said of hiring Thomas.

When Thomas had only been on air for two days, Cronan said she received a call from Friend, who was belligerent.

“It was just immediate screaming on the phone, not constructive criticism — just venom and profanity. He screamed: ‘Tell her (Thomas) to shut the [expletive] up,” Cronan said. “I was flabbergasted. I’ve never witnessed that type of behavior in the workplace.”

Cronan said Friend followed up with an email, also reviewed by The Times, that read, “Can you please tell her to stop shouting, stop talking in a fake Southern accent and stop sucking the air out of the show.”

Dunn also allegedly said of another Black female anchor of Ethiopian descent that he “hated her face.”

Other Black KYW employees who declined to be named for fear of retaliation bolstered claims about the duo’s racist and sexist behavior to the Times.

After the Times’ report, the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) released a statement saying it met with CBS on Sunday, Jan. 24, and called for the immediate termination of Dunn and Friend. They said the issue extends beyond the Philadelphia television station.

“The troubling issues raised in the story are not just confined to one TV station. NABJ has heard from numerous CBS employees across the country and has been made aware of multiple lawsuits and investigations,” the statement said. “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.”

CBS is not new to scandal, as in 2018 the company was gripped by allegations of sexual misconduct against then-CEO Leslie Moonves. However, the company said it has made strides since then. They also said they’d previously looked into allegations against Dunn, but hadn’t received further complaints.

“CBS is committed to ensuring an inclusive and respectful work environment for all its employees,” the company said. “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.”

Social media users said they were not at all surprised by the Times story.

“I am not surprised at all. This is pretty much corporate America,” Twitter user @Webly Alfred wrote.

Another user, @TQR317, wrote “its all about the great white hope.. if you’re a person of color oh to them you’re second place.”

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