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Law Firm Investigated CBS News Co-Chief Before Abrupt Exit
News broke earlier today that Neeraj Khemlani would be leaving his post
Claire Atkinson is a contributing editor to The Ankler. She is currently also host of her own The Media Mix podcast, and founder of the newsletter of the same name.
CBS News co-chief Neeraj Khemlani is leaving his position, after just two years in charge of the broadcast network news division and its various outposts from stations to streaming.
Khemlani, who joined from Hearst newspapers, took over in April 2021, alongside Wendy McMahon. The two were named presidents and co-heads of CBS News, succeeding the legendary Susan Zirinsky, who decamped to make documentaries for Paramount+.
A source confirmed to The Ankler that CBS brought in an outside law firm, Kauff, McGuire & Margolis, to investigate Khemlani’s behavior after complaints from women. It is unclear however if the investigation played any role in Khemlani’s departure from his position at CBS News. The firm is a labor law specialist in the entertainment world.
More than 30 women spoke to the law firm involved, one person said.
A spokesperson for CBS declined comment. A source, however, tells The Ankler: “If he were found to have violated any HR policies he would not be continuing to have an ongoing relationship with CBS.”
Khemlani did not respond to requests for comment but in a note to staff said: “I’m looking forward to slipping my reporter’s notebook back into my pocket and heading out on a new adventure.”
Khemlani is retaining a relationship with the company through a new agreement to develop documentaries and scripted series for CBS, and books for publisher Simon & Schuster, according to a note shared by CBS News on Sunday afternoon. The publisher however is being sold to private equity giant KKR.
The New York Post was first to report that Khemlani had been referred to internal HR training after run-ins with female staff.
Khemlani’s departure is the third big-name news boss to leave this year, following Warner Bros. Discovery’s decision to fire CNN’s Chris Licht. In January, NBC News president Noah Oppenheim and the network also parted ways.
CBS had been the subject of an earlier investigation over the alleged behavior of former CEO Les Moonves. CBS is owned by Paramount Global which is controlled by shareholder Shari Redstone, who has tried to remake the company after firing Moonves amid a hail of sexual assault and harassment allegations that Moonves broadly denied. The New York State Attorney General scored a $30 million settlement from CBS and Moonves over allegations of insider trading and concealment of sexual harassment allegations.
Inside CBS News, home to 60 Minutes, executives are speculating that McMahon will take-over as sole lead of the news division, with news coming of that announcement as early as tomorrow. McMahon had been in charge of helping bring together CBS’ 200 local stations and the broadcast news division.
McMahon is also believed to be getting oversight of CBS Media Ventures, which produces/distributes syndicated shows like Judge Judy, Entertainment Tonight and The Drew Barrymore Show.
Should McMahon be confirmed, she would join a conga-line of female leaders at news networks, including Rebecca Blumenstein at NBC, Rashida Jones at MSNBC, Kim Godwin at ABC News, Suzanne Scott at Fox News Media, and Amy Entelis, who is one of a handful of interim chiefs at CNN. As of Sunday, with no announcement yet of who is taking over, the current struggles at the parent studio could result in a reshuffling of resources as belts tighten in advance of what’s likely to be another contentious presidential election.
CBS CEO Cheeks said in a company memo: “Please join me in wishing Neeraj much success in his next chapter. I will update you soon with information about the new leadership and structure for the division.”