Former CBS Reporter Says Bosses Complained He Was ‘Queening Out’ And Should ‘Butch It Up’
Don Champion claims CBS executive David Friend complained about his "on-air presence” and voice.
February 12, 2021 at 6:24 pm
Don Champion, a gay Black journalist who worked at a CBS station in New York, is coming forward with allegations of work discrimination as the media company continues to face a series of accusations from employees. Champion shared his story in a lengthy Facebook post, specifically making his complaints against CBS executives David Friend and Peter Dunn.
Sharing a picture of himself in the post, Champion said the photo makes him proud to have worked as a reporter, but also brings back terrible memories of being bullied and discriminated against for his race and sexual preference.
Champion, who started as a freelancer at WCBS in 2013, said Friend used the freelancer status as a tool for bullying and intimidation. Friend first complained about the reporter's "on-air presence" and then about his voice, Champion claimed.
"On my first day on-air at WCBS, I infamously scored a market exclusive — surveillance video of a handcuffed suspect who escaped police custody," said Champion, who moved from Denver to work in New York. "My colleagues were impressed. Soon, it was clear nothing I could do would impress David Friend."
Friend allegedly refused to pay for a voice coach when the journalist made the request, causing Champion to pay for it himself.
"I distinctly remember the voice coach telling me during one session that she was confused about what problem the station had with my voice," he said.
In retrospect, the complaint about presence and voice was code for "too gay,” Champion said.
"The number of days WCBS offered me to work each week ebbed and flowed — depending on how David felt about me. My life and career were under the control of a bigot," Champion said. "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 truly forget what for. It was so loud and unprofessional that an anchor called me in their office afterward pissed at what they had witnessed."
Champion also spoke on behalf of other Black reporters at the station.
"There were clear double standards for other Black employees behind-the-scenes at WCBS too," he said. "So much so that after a Black firefighter died fighting a fire at David’s home — some of us Black employees were hopeful it would cause him to start treating us better. It didn't."
When Friend allegedly refused to give anymore freelancing opportunities to Champion, other managers at the station advocated for him to get hired. But he already accepted a job at another station, CBS Newspath.
"Before I left, a manager at WCBS even said to me that they hoped I 'knew the problem [at WCBS] was never you,'” he said. "Those words have stayed in my head ever since and I know what the manager meant."
Champion also detailed allegations against his bosses at another employer, CBS Newspath, where he says he was told to "butch it up" and received complaints that he was "queening out."
"My life was upended and my TV news career ruined — starting with the bigotry of the likes of David Friend and Peter Dunn," he said. "In a funny twist, WCBS called me in late 2019 with a job offer as a reporter. I declined and thought how desperate they must’ve been to call me."
Champion said he wishes he would have sued and stood up for himself, 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," he said. "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."
Ukee Washington, an anchor at a CBS station in Philadelphia, also came forward with accusations against Dunn and Friend, as Blavity previously reported. Dunn allegedly referred to Washington as "just a jive guy" and said, "all he does is dance … dancing, dancing.” Several other former employees have also said that the executives have been “bullying female managers and blocking efforts to hire and retain Black journalists,” according to an investigative report from the Los Angeles Times.