By CBS 2 Chicago Staff

CHICAGO (CBS) — Two top CBS local news station executives who have been accused of a disturbing pattern of racist and sexist behavior are no longer with the company.

“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,” CBS said in a statement. “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.

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“The external investigation into CBS Television Stations management that is being conducted by Keisha-Ann Gray at Proskauer Rose remains ongoing. We are thankful to those who have shared their experiences and knowledge with the investigators thus far. CBS is committed to a safe, inclusive and respectful workplace where all voices are heard, claims are investigated and appropriate action is taken when necessary.”

The Los Angeles Times first broke the story in January after it obtained legal papers from a former employee of KYW-TV, CBS 3 in Philadelphia. They describe Dunn repeatedly disparaging veteran anchor Ukee Washington, who’s Black. It’s alleged Dunn said Washington was “jive” and “all he does is dance.”

It’s alleged Friend was angry about the hiring of KYW morning anchor Brooke Thomas. According to a former KYW news director, Friend was “just venom and profanity. He screamed, “Tell her to shut the (expletive) up.” The station fired Thomas just months later.

Later, Dunn, it is alleged, objected to extending the contract of Rahel Soloman, who replaced Thomas, because, quote, “I hate her face.”

The LA Times also reports WBBM-TV, CBS 2 Chicago’s former president and general manager Marty Wilke was forced out by Dunn in 2018. The newspaper quoting Wilke as saying “the culture starts and stops with Peter Dunn.”

Both Dunn and Friend were placed on leave after the allegations surfaced.

Friend was also the news director for WCBS-TV, CBS 2 in New York, and was accused of being verbally abusive in the workplace. Don Champion, a former CBS 2 New York freelance reporter, told CBS back in January he was warned of problems at WCBS-TV before starting in 2013.

“My agent warned me: Be careful. You’re gay, Black and a man,” Champion said.

Champion wondered: “How many other lives and careers they’ve ruined? I mean, these are two very, very powerful men in the TV news industry.”

CBS internally investigated Dunn in 2019, and said back in January “senior management at the time addressed the situation” with him, but had not had new complaints since then.

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Peter Dunn’s attorney said: “We are disappointed in the ruling but CBS has not found any wrongdoing in relation to Peter Dunn. The termination is without cause and Peter continues to be paid according to his contract. We hope that in the future he will be fully exonerated.”

CBS responded in a statement, saying: “While we won’t comment on the specifics of an ongoing investigation, it is clear to us that this action is appropriate and necessary at this time. Any decision regarding termination for “Cause” will be made at the conclusion of the investigation.”

An attorney for Friend said in a statement:

David Friend’s separation from CBS was, as the company itself acknowledges, without any finding that he engaged in the misconduct alleged. That critical fact should be reported accurately. After two months, the investigation is ongoing – David has yet to be interviewed – and he is confident that, when it concludes, the accusations will be proven false.

Mr. Friend is incredibly proud of the success he achieved during his 14 years at CBS.

Throughout his career as an award-winning and respected journalist, he fought for the people in his news departments and battled powerful politicians and interest groups, fighting for justice for his viewers and their communities.  He has been a tough and even-handed leader who has been privileged to support numerous colleagues in their careers and promote diversity in CBS’s newsrooms and in its newscasts.

He is defined by his successes and buoyed by the numerous colleagues, mentees, and employees that have reached out to offer tremendous support and encouragement over the last few months. This support was a clear reminder of what a past (and previously reported) investigation found – that he is a tough but fair boss. He is confident that at its conclusion, this current investigation will find the same.

Mr. Friend knows he has been immensely blessed in his 43-year career. He looks forward to what’s next and will enthusiastically pursue the future with honor, integrity, and a continued commitment to excellence.

 

On Wednesday afternoon, CBS said, “CBS is committed to a safe, inclusive and respectful workplace where all voices are heard, claims are investigated and appropriate action is taken when necessary.”

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Contributing: CBS New York

CBS 2 Chicago Staff