Former freelance reporter of New York station WCBS-TV Don Champion has come forward in a lengthy Facebook post alleging he was "bullied and discriminated against for being a gay Black man."
USA : In viral Facebook post, ex-CBS reporter, Don Champion says he was 'bullied and discriminated against for bein… https://t.co/RV9K9ZFh4m— Glyn ap Myfyr (@Glyn ap Myfyr)1612009104.0
Champion's post on January 26 followed allegations of sexism and racism by CBS executives David Friend and Peter Dunn—who run 28 local CBS stations—going public.
A Los Angeles Times article focused largely on station KWY-TV in Philadelphia and highlighted allegations Friend and Dunn both:
"cultivated a hostile work environment that included bullying female managers and blocking efforts to hire and retire Black journalists."
You can watch the news report of Champion's story, here:
Champion began working for the company as a freelancer in the spring of 2013 and said he was warned by his agent about the two executives.
"I can honestly say I've never been discriminated against in the way David Friend and Peter Dunn did me at WCBS-TV," he said.
"Even before I started, my agent warned me, 'be careful, you're gay, Black and a man. David doesn't like any of those.'"
"I still question how I got in the door at CBS 2 News–in the end, I think it was fate."
Champion said his freelance status was used as an opportunity by Friend "to bully, intimidate and tear me down- not only as a reporter but also as a human."
Initially, Friend criticized Champion's "on-air presence."
Months later, the exec criticized his "voice"
"When I went to his office and asked for help paying for a voice coach he said no. Trying to do whatever it took to get a contract, I paid for one on my own."
"I distinctly remember the voice coach telling me during one session that she was confused about what problem the station had with my voice. Looking back, I now know 'presence' and 'voice' were code; in Friend and Dunn's eyes, I was too gay."
Champion gave examples describing how his life and career "were under the control of a bigot."
"After live shots, I'd get emails from David complaining about little things like a fumbled word on-air."
"One time, he embarrassed me by berating me loudly in the middle of the newsroom."
"I remember getting on the elevator with Peter Dunn one time and nervously trying to strike up a conversation with him. He ignored me."
A year-and-a-half later, Champion was transferred to CBS News in the Newspath division.
But the abuse and discrimination continued.
"At CBS Newspath, word from a manager of me needing to 'butch it up' on-air got to me."
"There was also a complaint about me 'queening out' during live shots. When I confided in my VP about this during an incredibly uncomfortable and awkward conversation- she viciously turned against me after being one of my biggest supporters."
"She had it out for me from that moment on and in July 2017- a few months later- she called my agent and told him she was breaking my contract and letting me go because I 'wasn't her style'."
@CBSThisMorning @Jerickaduncan You can’t help who you are! Being who you are should not prevent you from opportunit… https://t.co/vSZcn4DYBT— SassyCharlie (@SassyCharlie)1611755183.0
Champion said he mentioned the network in his post to drive the point home about the toxic work environment at the time.
He added his life was upended and his TV news career ruined and it began with the bigotry of Friend and Dunn.
@CBSThisMorning @Jerickaduncan Thanks for covering this topic. This culture has hurt a lot of POC journalists. But… https://t.co/0J6mQEnMrS— Nina Moini (@Nina Moini)1611756313.0
@CBSThisMorning @Jerickaduncan Friend says his decisions were based on performance. But his decision as to WHO he e… https://t.co/cbqItxd24C— Alan Wang (@Alan Wang)1611764372.0
In retrospect, Champion said he has regrets.
"I wish I would've sued. I wish I would've stood up for myself more, but there's so much fear involved. I've been incredibly blessed in the few years since I left news and it's all reinforced my faith that everything happens for a reason."
"It's taken a lot of work to heal, though. Anyone who knows me knows how passionate I was about news and how it was my dream to be a journalist since childhood."
"A dream and years of hard work stolen from me by blatant bigotry and the sad part is-- there are countless other stories."
The Los Angeles Times article also mentioned a number of Black employees complained about CBS' hostile work enivronment and accused Dunn of being the source.
CBS issued a statement, saying they were "committed to ensuring an inclusive and respectful work environment for all its employees."
"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."