“And that’s the way it is.” – Walter Cronkite, CBS News anchor 1961-1982
Those words were, for most Americans, synonymous with CBS News for a span of decades that saw historic, tumultuous events, from the assassination of a sitting U.S. president and the Apollo moon mission to Vietnam and Watergate and everything in between.
“That’s the way it is.”
It’s a simple philosophy, really – communicate and retell the facts of a news story in a way that can be widely understood. When it came to executing this mission, CBS News was arguably the gold standard as recently as half a century ago. It may as well have been millennia.
Mr. Cheeks, in a recent email you stated that CBS’ “external investigation into allegations of misconduct by leadership at the Stations group has concluded”1, which you said included “painful revelations about experiences that we cannot tolerate today or in the future.”
As someone who has repeatedly been the target of religious discrimination and other misconduct at the hands of CBS Los Angeles’ management team, I can unequivocally characterize your summary statement as incomplete and misleading – at best.
When I began my career at CBS Radio in 2006, I could have never anticipated the staggering changes that would occur in our world and our industry, not least of which was the growth of the internet from a CBS afterthought into the primary form of media consumed by billions across the globe. But equally surprising is the sharp and rapid rise of an increasingly aggressive anti-Christian “cancel culture” within the ranks of CBS itself, starting at the very top and filtering downward.
Sometime around 2011 or so, things began to change, slowly at first and then gradually accelerating in speed and visibility. And yet time and again, whenever race, religion or sex/gender identity came up, I came to understand through messaging from both corporate policies and individual managers that as a Christian male that happened to be both White and heterosexual, my identity was to take a backseat to those around me.
Under your messaging, Mr. Cheeks, this anti-White rhetoric accelerated as part of an overall corporate communications strategy that included support of the overtly Marxist group “Black Lives Matter” (BLM) and promotion of content and/or advocates of “Critical Race Theory” (CRT), a discriminatory and repugnant racist ideology that essentially demonizes people of one particular skin color as morally inferior.
CBS Standards has even adopted style guidance based on what BLM deems to be “preferable” language. On June 1, 2020, you sent out a company-wide email aligning the ViacomCBS corporate platform with the values of BLM and the message of “racial justice”.
Far from being a civil rights organization, BLM openly espouses a radical agenda that ultimately seeks to replace the most fundamental building block of both our society — the family – with the state and transform the economic structure of the United States of America.2
Until recently, BLM openly stated as much on their website. Earlier this year, the BLM Utah chapter described anyone who flies the American flag as “racist”, calling it a “symbol of hatred.” This is the same group whose New York president Hawk Newsome threatened: “If this country doesn’t give us what we want, then we will burn down this system and replace it. All right? And I could be speaking figuratively. I could be speaking literally. It’s a matter of interpretation.”
Does CBS stand in solidarity with “values” and threats such as these, Mr. Cheeks?
According to corporate communications that were distributed company-wide – some of which bears your name – the answer is unequivocally “Yes”. In my view, CBS Corp is proudly using “anti-racism” as a part of an overall corporate agenda based on radical leftist ideology to suppress dissent, particularly of its employees who hold orthodox Biblical Judeo-Christian worldviews.
Not only is this strategy morally repugnant and ostensibly illegal, it’s also downright terrifying to see a media corporation wield such massive influence and reach on behalf of a movement that seeks to exalt the ideology of racial supremacy, long rejected by the American people – whether it was in the form of the KKK, the terrorist Black Panthers group, the Aryan Nation, the Nation of Islam cult, or the anti-Semitic teachings of “anti-racist” ideology espoused by Ibram X. Kendi in CBS training materials.3
As a Bible-believing Christian, my faith teaches that God made man in His image. Plain and simple. End of story.
And yet what I see happening in the current pro-BLM/social justice/CRT movement is the idea that anyone who is Caucasian and possessing traits of that “whiteness” – again, a phrase used in CBS’ own corporate messaging – must be exposed and shunned at any cost.
Through your leadership, Mr. Cheeks, I believe CBS is now propagating an anti-White ideology via its corporate communications that denounces the idea of anything having to do with being a certain skin color -the very definition of racism and discrimination.
Consider the slate of guests from ViacomCBS Inclusion Week 2020:
- Robin DiAngelo’s “White Fragility”- During ViacomCBS Inclusion Week 2020, the company offered a virtual seminar on “White Fragility”, a book which promotes CRT and attempts to incriminate an entire race of people solely based on the color of their skin, the very definition of racism.
- Nikole Hannah-Jones, Creator of “1619 Project” – During ViacomCBS Inclusion Week 2020, the company featured content from Jones, who had previously called the “white race….the biggest murderer, rapist, pillager, and thief of the modern world”. Jones also told CBS News “destroying property is not violence” as LA and other cities burned in the summer of 2020. CBS News eagerly amplified that message.
- Alarmist and ideological propaganda distributed by KCBS/KCAL News Director Andrea Parquet-Taylor – the only Black news director at a CBS-owned TV station – warning certain “extremist” groups may pose a threat to crews in the field. According to the news director’s memo, the “alt-right” was listed under the heading of “Extremist Groups”, attributing it to “groups and individuals whose core belief is that ‘white identity’ is under attack by multicultural forces using ‘political correctness’ and ‘social justice’ to undermine white people and ‘their’ civilization. ”The material also warned to watch out for anyone wearing “alt-right” clothing including New Balance sneakers, the “official shoes of white nationalists”.4 These materials also conspicuously made no mention of BLM despite the widespread rioting, looting and vandalism committed in Los Angeles and around the country5 by those affiliated or inspired by the movement – an implied political endorsement of BLM by CBS Corp. taken in context of CBS corporate messaging.
While many of these objections could be described as primarily political in nature, much of these run parallel, however, with the deeply-held religious beliefs of employees like myself, who day after day have their consciences assailed by the constant barrage of indoctrination related to leftist talking points, any of which could conceivably be grounds for termination were we to publicly express our disagreement.
My Christian faith compels me to love those around us just like Jesus did, no matter how undeserving or unloving they themselves may behave toward us. I have had the privilege of working alongside a handful of people who have lived out these Christian principles in the workplace day in and day out, even as many CBS management and employees repeatedly – and often openly – mocked, despised and denounced such views in the newsroom.
I’ll say that again: specific views and viewpoints, largely attributed as “conservative” or traditionally Christian, were openly mocked and denounced in a mainstream media newsroom – at the assignment desk, among the writers, reporters and producers, and even among senior management.
Take ViacomCBS’ transgender learning portal in partnership with GLAAD.
Taken as a whole, such “non-binary” talking points are less scientifically objective statements and more anti-Christian rhetoric aimed at deconstructing long and deeply-held Judeo-Christian beliefs, namely that God in the beginning made mankind male and female.
For CBS to take a position in support of “non-binary”, therefore, must also coincide with a corporate viewpoint that is now hostile toward Judeo-Christian biblical teaching. You cannot have it both ways.
Or what about when CBSLA (and other CBS Local affiliates) promoted Robert Jones, an author who wrote a book titled “White Too Long” aimed specifically at “White Christian churches”?6
For context: these stories were being pumped out just days after BLM riots – which CBS2/KCAL9 covered extensively – left businesses damaged or destroyed around LA and the nation.
Where was the outrage over these stories? What happened to the editorial process? And if it was properly adhered to – who exactly OK’d these blatantly racially- and religiously-charged hit pieces?
Or what about on March 17, 2021, in the hours immediately following a horrific shooting spree at several Atlanta-area spas that left eight dead – six of them Asian women?
That’s when ViacomCBS management apparently decided that would be the appropriate moment to release a statement proclaiming anti-Asian sentiment had “skyrocketed” in America, immediately and without evidence assigning a racial motive to the already-despicable actions of the shooter, even while admitting at the time the motive was “unclear”.
Months later, CBS News quietly reported that “neither local authorities nor the FBI uncovered any evidence of a history of bigotry or racism against any ethnic group” by the Caucasian suspect.
Mr. Cheeks, not only was this a transparent attempt at pandering, but a statement with Viacom’s logo was distributed to employees condemning “white supremacy” for a crime that investigators now say was never about race or ethnicity.
Put another way: ViacomCBS used unconfirmed information to prematurely condemn a broad swath of its own employees simply for the color of their skin. That type of racially-inspired incitement is reckless and irresponsible.
When I saw these kinds of messages coming from corporate, I wanted to push back because I believed incidents like these would be unacceptable in any other era of journalism – except I was too afraid for my job to speak out.
I now deeply regret that fear. The truth is, Mr. Cheeks, there are far more examples of this kind of double standard in this company than can be fit within this letter. It’s my view that ViacomCBS has repeatedly and consistently violated its own stated policy concerning discrimination in the workplace on a daily basis, and behavior which was sanctioned by those in management, including you, Mr. Cheeks, and your team may have potentially violated federal law.7
Perhaps even more disturbing, however, is that ViacomCBS has become openly hostile towards traditional Christian beliefs in favor of the emerging secular religion of “social justice/racial equity”.
I speak this not as a distant observer, but as someone who was individually targeted by what I believe were malicious actors within CBS management for their own agendas.
As you may know, Tara Finestone, a former CBS2/KCAL9 news director, was allowed to continue in her role for at least more than a year – unlike former GM Jay Howell, who was recently fired for his alleged treatment of women and minorities – even after she was accused of multiple instances of misconduct, which were reported in a Los Angeles Times investigative series.
Around the same period of time, I reported to HR that she and my immediate supervisor, Bjorn Dahl, called a meeting with me to specifically ask me about my religious activities outside work, specifically my views on abortion and other constitutionally-protected and deeply-held beliefs.
When I reported this to HR, CBS eventually sent me and other colleagues a memo without so much as an apology and said they considered the matter closed. To my knowledge, Dahl is still employed with CBS to this day.
It was a disappointing and legally questionable response to what can only be described as CBS-endorsed harassment toward a “straight White Christian male” employee simply because of his private beliefs.
When I asked HR whether the same targeting that was applied toward my expressed views would be applied toward others on our digital team, I was told by HR rep Jennifer Baker that it was my responsibility to take action, presumably because their speech did not contradict the company’s own political positions.
Taken in a larger context, it was even more bizarre in light of the ongoing investigations and fallout over KCBS/KCAL management’s alleged behavior toward women, minorities and others – yet oddly “Christian conservative” employees were never mentioned in any of those reports. I don’t believe that to be a mistake or an oversight. I believe that to be the state of broadcast media in 2021.
In my view, in exchange for not being harassed by HR, CBS leverages its toxic corporate culture – which has already been well documented8 – to intimidate and ultimately compel its employees to acquiesce to leftist ideology, ranging from support for political groups such as Antifa and BLM to anti-American/anti-conservative views.
Those employees who do not fall in line – myself included – end up facing hostility, harassment, limited advancement potential and the unsavory decision of whether to resign in protest or wait to be terminated.
But whereas in the days of Cronkite there existed a firewall between CBS’ news and corporate operations, the CBS rank and file have been exposed to constant pro-BLM messaging from yourself, Mr. Cheeks, and others in management.
This was never more apparent than in the summer of 2020 as Los Angeles and other cities burned, churches and religious symbols were desecrated, and racially-inspired violence permeated our rundowns every single night.
Like countless Americans, I watched dumbstruck as CBS2/KCAL9 and other MSM outlets spoke out of both sides of their collective mouths, on one hand defending the First Amendment rights of BLM “protesters” to violate mandated social distancing in order to vandalize, burglarize, loot and and destroy local businesses in the midst of a “deadly” pandemic, while we were simultaneously told that small business owners that defied those orders or people of faith who gathered for church and other religious services were contributing to potential “super-spreader” events.
I watched as some of my colleagues – CBS management, producers, EPs and others – consistently and without apology juxtaposed programming that urged viewers to avoid mass gatherings for fear of COVID while at the same time bringing in on-air guests to lecture audiences about the “rights” of looters and thugs who were allowed to run roughshod and violently destroy many of those same communities.
I watched as increasingly hostile messaging from you, Mr. Cheeks, and your leadership team amplified the voices of anti-American, anti-Christian, and anti-White propagandists while you overtly hailed those gestures in the name of “diversity” and “inclusion”.
I watched as my own supervisor – who due to either gross incompetence, professional envy, or fear for his own job – repeatedly lied or exaggerated about my job performance in order to ingratiate himself with upper management, even as staffing and employee performance in his own department was falling apart.
As more Americans realize the nightly news has become little more than a propaganda tool for the Democratic party and the radical left agenda, those who continue working in the industry – those primarily White, middle-aged employees hoping to quietly knock out those last few years before they can retire – are doing a great disservice to the ever-shrinking audiences who still watch their content.
They’re telling their viewers that skin color is more important than character, that American institutions (except of course our traditional media programmers) are inherently racist, and that anyone clinging to Judeo-Christian values of family, freedom and faith should be viewed with suspicion as a “domestic terrorist”.
CBS in particular and legacy media as a whole has failed to reckon with the fast-moving changes in not only how Americans consume content, but how the majority of Americans view their own country – not as an already perfect union, but hopeful that despite our many challenges, we can and should continue to strive toward a more perfect union.
America was first and foremost founded in the pursuit of religious freedom by those fleeing from monarchical tyrants who suppressed its free expression. I believe CBS and other corporations are now doing the same as a means of bypassing the First Amendment of the United States Constitution to target Christians and conservatives in their ranks.
As such, I am convinced the great civil rights battle of our time will not be for “equity” or “inclusion”, but for religious freedom, a right that comes from God – not government – and without which the United States of America would not exist.
Here’s an idea: instead of crafting narratives through the company’s new “race and culture” division that can only further segment and divide whatever audience that remains who is still loyal to your brand, why isn’t CBS striving to better meet the content needs of the roughly 120 million Americans who now believe the media establishment is inherently corrupt and biased in favor of radical left-wing policies?
Mr. Cheeks, since you and CBS have largely failed to take the above-mentioned discrimination seriously, I’m inviting all my colleagues to confidentially share their stories by emailing [email protected]. I’d love to hear from any of you with similar experiences.
Whether it’s racial bullying, religious discrimination, or bias in the editorial process, we will not be silenced either as journalists or as Americans.
We are tired of being told that White is evil, Christians are bigots, America is racist, and riots are peaceful protests.
We are done watching your propaganda and calling it “journalism”.
We are done propping up a dying medium simply out of habit or convenience.
That, Mr. Cheeks, is truly the way it is.
What will you do to change it?
Ian M. Giatti
Former Managing Editor, CBS Local/CBS Los Angeles
- CBS Concludes Probe Into Racist, Abusive Conduct At Stations”, Deadline, July 22, 2021
- “Black Lives Matter ‘What We Believe’ page that includes disrupting ‘nuclear family structure’ removed from website” – Washington Examiner, Sept. 21, 2020
- ViacomCBS Global Inclusion memo, “Blackout Tuesday Resources”
- Internal CBS email, “Safety Information”, Jan. 15, 2021
- “George Floyd protests: the US cities that became hotspots of unrest”, The Guardian, May 31, 2020
- “There remains a disturbingly strong link between holding racist attitudes and identifying as a white Christian.” Robert Jones, Religious News Service, Jan. 7, 2021
- U.S. Equal Opportunity Employment Commission – Religious Discrimination
- “Two top CBS execs leave network amid investigation of toxic work culture”, CNN, April 8, 2021
Letter cross-posted from Ian’s newly created Substack.