CBS executive allegedly called Stephen Colbert and Hugh Jackman ‘gay’

CBS has placed one of its executives on leave following allegations of workplace misconduct, CNN reported on October 3.

Vincent “Vinnie” Favale, senior vice president of talent for CBS Televisions Studios and programme executive for The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, was accused of making a series of homophobic and sexist remarks towards the late-night TV host and his guests.

“He would frequently call Stephen [Colbert] gay because of his seeming inability to interview women well,” a former CBS executive told CNN, adding: “He would say this in rehearsals, the control room. Sometimes the CBS attorney would even be present, which to me is just shocking that nothing was done.”

CBS said Favale was placed on leave (Vinnie Favale/Facebook)

A total nine former and current CBS employees spoke to CNN about Favale’s behaviour on condition of anonymity due to non-disclosure agreements or fear of repercussions.

One current employee recalled Favale questioning Hugh Jackman’s sexuality when the actor appeared on the show last year—calling him “gay” and “in the closet” as well as describing Jackson’s marriage to Deborra-lee Furness as “fake.”

In another occasion, two people heard Favale refer to MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow as “an ugly man,” a comment he made about another high-profile, openly lesbian guest on the show CNN did not name.

In yet another inappropriate remark, Favale told a female CBS executive—who has since left the network and accused Favale of retaliating against her complaining to HR—that he “got four erections while watching Jennifer Hudson rehearse.” The Oscar-winning performer had appeared on the show in December 2015.

Comedian Stephen Colbert (R) and his wife Evelyn McGee-Colbert attend the Met Gala (Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Huffington Post)

Last month, the chairman and CEO of CBS Les Moonves stepped down after a total 12 women accused him of sexual misconduct in two reports by journalist Ronan Farrow at The New Yorker.

In a statement to CNN, CBS acknowledged the existence of a 2016 complaint against Favale—who began his career at the network in 1996 and worked on programmes such as The Late Show with David Letterman and the Howard Stern Radio Show—said the executive’s behaviour deserved further scrutiny.

The statement read: “The comments reported in this story are offensive and not consistent with the standards we expect from our executives or the culture we want at CBS. The network investigated a complaint for inappropriate language that was received in January 2016, and corrective action was taken. However, since concerned voices are speaking up nearly three years later, additional review is warranted. Mr. Favale has been placed on leave while we look into this situation further.”

Favale defended the remarks “attributed” to him as “jokes” taken out of context: “Allegations that I have ever retaliated against anyone in any fashion are 100% false. I have spent my entire career working at comedy shows, where there has always been a wide latitude to make transgressive jokes while preparing the program. While we make a lot of jokes, these jokes attributed to me, whether said in rehearsals or production meetings, are being taken out of context and were not said in the way being presented here.”

Host, executive producer, writer Stephen Colbert speaks onstage at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on August 10, 2015 in California (Frederick M. Brown/Getty)

Colbert addressed the allegations against Favale on his show on Wednesday night, saying he was “grateful” for the CNN investigation. 

“About six months into the show some of our employees said they were uncomfortable with some things that he said, so we took their complaints to HR. They investigated twice, but I don’t really know what, if anything, happened. It seemed like someone was protecting this guy. I don’t know who it was. We eventually convinced the network to make a change,” he said.

He added: “This is why you want a free press, this is why you want investigative journalism: It’s to make sure that government and companies and people are accountable for their action.”