A top CBS television executive allegedly disparaged Ukee Washington, CBS3′s Eyewitness News co-anchor, as “just a jive guy,” the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday in an article about “a hostile work environment” at CBS3 and other local network-owned stations around the country.
Washington, a fixture at CBS’s Philadelphia station since the 1980s, did not comment for the Times and did not respond Sunday to a request for comment from The Inquirer.
The Times article alleged that CBS Television Stations president Peter Dunn and a top lieutenant “cultivated a hostile work environment that included bullying female managers and blocking efforts to hire and retain Black journalists.”
CBS, which in 2018 ousted chief executive Leslie Moonves amid sexual misconduct allegations, told the Times that it looked into allegations about Dunn.
“CBS is committed to ensuring an inclusive and respectful work environment for all its employees,” CBS told the Times in a statement. “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.”
A person reached in the newsroom of CBS3 Sunday said no one was available to comment.
Brandin Stewart, CBS3′s general manager, in a message to employees expressed understanding that the Times coverage was difficult for many of them to read and that he was “committed to fighting for equal and fair diversity in our workplace.”
Ernest Owens, president of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists, called Dunn’s comment about Washington disheartening and said a collaboration was needed to address systemic racism in the CBS3 newsroom.
“A newsroom that racially degrades one of its hardest working Black journalists is a newsroom that mocks the integrity and trust of the communities it aims to cover,” Owens said in a statement on the nonprofit group’s website. The statement continues that CBS3 and other news stations should aim to not pander to Black audiences “with inconsistent gestures, but actively work to make their actions speak louder than racist rhetoric.”
The Times said it based its report on court filings, CBS internal communications, and interviews with two dozen current and former CBS television station employees.
Two major identified sources for the Times story were Brien Kennedy, CBS3′s general manager from April 2015 through July 2019, and Margaret Cronan, who was CBS3′s news director from September 2015 through July 2017.
Both Kennedy and Cronan told the Times in interviews about Dunn’s comments on Washington’s “jive talking.” Dunn managed CBS3 from 2002 through 2004.
“I was shocked that a corporate head would use words like that to describe an African American,” Cronan told the Times.
Cronan, who did not respond to a voice message left at her Philadelphia residence, posted the Times story on LinkedIn. Part of her comment about the article said: “I have always believed that when we see racism, discrimination and other offensive behavior in the workplace, we MUST speak up. I only wish I had done so sooner.”