A former longtime CBS executive is speaking out about the network’s lack of diversity in a lengthy op-ed for Variety published Tuesday, detailing several examples of racial discrimination and workplace misconduct.
Whitney Davis joined CBS News in 2006 as Director, CBS Entertainment Diversity & Inclusion before her departure earlier this year. In the piece, she slams the independent investigation into the toxic workplace culture amid the sexual misconduct scandal against former CEO Les Moonves, for overlooking systemic racism and discrimination within the company.
“The company has a white problem across the board,” Davis writes. “Did you know that there’s not one black creative executive working at CBS Television Network or CBS Television Studios?”
Davis, went on to give examples of misconduct during her time at CBS, including one incident where a co-worker said “My dad has f–ed black women, and he loved it.”
She also detailed an incident in 2009 where then-national editor Bill Felling refused to cover the costs for her to travel out of the country to cover a story, telling her “I’m not going to waste the company’s money for you to go there and fail.”
The white folks in the office also found it challenging to remember the name of another Black female staffer in the news room, opting instead on calling both women We-Dra — short for Whitney and Deidra.
Davis claims to have been passed over for promotions many times as her white colleagues were often propped up and elevated to that next level.
“Although I couldn’t confirm that my career had been sabotaged, I felt as though I had hit a glass ceiling working in news,” says Davis.
Davis also calls out Peter Golden, head of network casting and talent, for overlooking actors of color in favor of white ones. “It is my opinion that Peter Golden doesn’t find minority performers to be as talented as white actors,” she said.
Golden denied her comment in a statement to Variety, saying: “The claims and innuendos made about me by Ms. Davis are categorically untrue. Approximately eight years ago, Ms. Davis was a trainee in my department for the customary three- to -four-month period provided under CBS’ management training program. While it is certainly possible that I may have reviewed headshots in front of Ms. Davis, her claim that I systematically dismissed diverse actors is patently false. In addition, and contrary to her assertions, the Comedy Diversity Showcase has resulted in numerous guest and series regular roles on CBS shows for the participants. Throughout my career in casting, I have always been a vigorous advocate for all actors. Ms. Davis’ implications are completely contrary to who I am personally and professionally.”
Responding to Davis’ allegations in Variety, a CBS spokesperson said: “During her time at CBS, Whitney was a valued team member of the News and Entertainment divisions. She was selected for a management-training program, promoted several times, and was given high-profile assignments. While we disagree with some statements in Whitney’s story, we take all employee concerns seriously and remain committed to improving the workplace experience for everyone.
“CBS leadership has made strengthening our culture a top priority. Over the past several months, we have announced plans to devote considerable resources to critical areas such as ethics, compliance, diversity and inclusion, and human resources, including creating a centralized employee relations function to respond to workplace issues,” the statement continued. “Employees are CBS’ most important resource, and providing them with a safe, fair, inclusive and positive work environment is paramount to our continued success.”
During her time with the company, Davis said she was often the only person of color in meetings. “In fact, there was not one black creative executive at the network. Today, the only black female executive at CBS Entertainment oversees diversity and inclusion.”
You can read her full op-ed here.