CBS has suspended two of its top TV executives following a Los Angeles Times investigation that alleged they cultivated a toxic work culture involving racist and misogynistic behavior.
Peter Dunn, president of CBS television stations, and David Friend, senior vice president of news for television stations, “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 said in a statement shared with CNN Business.
“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,” the statement continued. The company declined to elaborate on the specific allegations.
On Sunday, The Times published an investigation led by media reporter Meg James into the culture at CBS’ TV stations. Dunn has managed CBS’ 28 TV stations, which together employ 2,800 workers, since 2009, according to the article.
The Times’ investigation included allegations that Dunn disparaged female and Black employees. Friend, who works closely with Dunn, allegedly took part in the conduct and was also accused of verbal abuse, according to The Times’ report.
In a statement to The Times, Friend said CBS has “a strong track record” of hiring and supporting women and people of color.
“These comments I may have made about our employees or prospective hires were only based on performance or qualifications — not about anyone’s race or gender,” he said in the statement. Dunn declined to comment to The Times on the allegations.
CBS has been no stranger to scandal in recent years. CBS chief executive Les Moonves left the company in 2018 amid a number of allegations of sexual misconduct made against him. Moonves admitted to consensual relations with three of the women named in a New Yorker investigation but he insisted that never abused his power and said he can only surmise that the allegations “are surfacing now for the first time, decades later, as part of a concerted effort by others to destroy my name, my reputation and my career.”
The Times reported that CBS hired two law firms to look into the sexual misconduct claims, but some staffers had concerns that the investigators fixated on Moonves and didn’t pay enough attention to other alleged abuses at the TV stations. CBS told The Times, “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.”
The National Association of Black Journalists met with ViacomCBS executives on Sunday to discuss the allegations.
“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,” NABJ said in a statement.