Top CBS Local Station Executives Exit Amid Probe of Racism Allegations

Brian Steinberg
·3-min read

Two CBS veterans, Peter Dunn and David Friend, are leaving their top roles at CBS’ local-stations division as an investigation continues into allegations they were abusive to women and employees of color.

“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. On an interim basis, Bryon Rubin will continue to run the Stations group while Kim Godwin will continue her oversight of Stations’ news operations until new leadership is in place,” CBS said in a statement Wednesday.

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Both men, who have spent years running CBS’ owned-and-operated stations, were placed on administrative leave in January following a Los Angeles Times report that examined their behavior toward women and people of color employed by individual outlets.

In a memo to staffers, George Cheeks, chief executive of ViacomCBS’ CBS operations said the company’s probe continues. “I want to be very clear that the external investigation under the direction of Keisha-Ann Gray at Proskauer Rose is not over and will continue,” he wrote. We appreciate those who have already provided information to the investigators. If you would like to share something you believe is relevant, please contact Ms. Gray directly via her assistant, Gayathri Menon. We want all voices to be heard. 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.”

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 at the time said some of its officers had met with CBS executives to discuss what the organization called “a massive problem among CBS owned-and-operated stations.”

Among the allegations were claims that Dunn used the word “jive” to describe the work of Philadelphia anchor Ukee Washington, and used phrases that described the journalist as ‘dancing” on air, and that Friend used inappropriate behavior in the workplace.

The issues raised are sensitive ones for CBS, which, prior to its late-2019 merger with Viacom, grappled with issues of how its employees were treated. The former chairman of CBS, Leslie Moonves, was ousted from the company in 2018 after being accused of sexual misconduct. He denied the allegations. Claims of inappropriate behavior and treatment were also raised at CBS News, which ousted former “CBS This Morning” co-anchor Charlie Rose in the fall of 2017 after allegations of sexual harassment were raised. Rose denied the claims.

The former CBS Corp. in August of 2018 hired two law firms to investigate the claims made against Moonves as well as other allegations about the company’s culture. The CBS board of directors said in a statement that the firms’ investigation “concluded that harassment and retaliation are not pervasive at CBS.”

Dunn is a veteran TV executive who had been with CBS since 2002. He initially oversaw Philadelphia CBS outlets KYW and WPSG before moving to supervise the company’s flagship New York outlet, WCBS and becoming president of sales for the local stations. Friend joined CBS in 2006. Both executives served in senior capacities at NBCUniversal in prior roles, with Friend supervising business-news programming at CNBC.

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