Gay journalist claims he was told to ‘butch it up’ on screen because he was too camp
Don Champion, a gay Black reporter who worked for CBS, has alleged that he was told to “butch it up” on screen and lost out on work because he was considered too camp.
Former TV journalist Champion has alleged he experienced homophobia from higher-ups while freelancing for New York’s CBS affiliate WCBS-TV and for CBS Newspath between 2013 and 2017.
In a Facebook post, Champion reflected that while he is “proud that as a news reporter I got the chance to cover huge stories in NYC”, he also has “horrible memories of being bullied and discriminated against for being a gay Black man”.
Reporter Don Champion says he faced complaints for being ‘too gay’
Naming two CBS executives who took issue with his mannerisms, he alleged of one: “His first complaint was my ‘on-air presence’/ Months later it was my ‘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 [their] eyes, I was too gay.”
After being told he would no longer get freelance work at WCBS, Champion says that he eventually moved to CBS Newspath, but “sadly the discrimination didn’t stop”.
He added: “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’.”
The former CBS reporter added: “Looking back, I have 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.
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“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.”
CBS has been dogged by racism and sexism allegations
Last month, the Los Angeles Times reported on allegations of racism and sexism within CBS, noting claims that CBS TV stations president Peter Dunn – one of the executives named by Champion – had “cultivated a hostile work environment that included bullying female managers and blocking efforts to hire and retain Black journalists”.
A spokesperson told the outlet: “CBS is 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.”