Casey Bloys, Kathleen Finch, David Zaslav, and JB Perrette sitting in front of HBO Max screen

Discrimination Lawsuit and Twitter Trolling Casts Further Scrutiny on HBO’s Toxic Culture

HBO’s workplace culture is coming under further scrutiny as the network has been hit with a discrimination lawsuit, and the company’s CEO admitted to engaging in social media trolling. These new allegations come after the network was already accused of enabling toxic work environments on the sets of Euphoria and The Idol.

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The network known for such hits as House of the Dragon, Succession, and The Last of Us has been facing several issues in recent months. Considering it is owned by Warner Bros. Discovery, one of the studios responsible for paying its workers inadequately and contributing to the SAG-AFTRA and WGA strikes, public perception of the network isn’t at its best. Additionally, Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav has been accused of canceling numerous HBO Max projects and deleting the titles from the streamer’s digital library to avoid having to pay residuals.

Over the summer the network launched The Idol, which quickly became regarded as the worst show in HBO’s history. In addition to being laced with misogyny, disturbing allegations arose about chaos on set, including extreme shooting schedules, last-minute script edits, and Sam Levinson completely twisting original showrunner Amy Seimetz’s vision for the project—changing it from a takedown of misogyny to a show that embodied it. Last year, similar accusations arose from the set of Levinson’s other show, Euphoria, regarding poor working conditions, extreme shooting schedules, and feuds between Levinson and some of the cast members. Each time, HBO denied the accusations and reiterated its dedication to creating a safe environment. However, these latest allegations suggest HBO’s problems go deeper than Levinson and Zaslav.

Lawsuit paints disturbing picture of HBO’s culture

HBO Chief Casey Bloys at streaming press event
(Jeff Kravitz, Getty Images)

On November 1, Rolling Stone published a report revealing that HBO had been hit by a discrimination lawsuit from former employee Sully Temori. The allegations against HBO are quite serious, as Temori accuses the network’s higher-ups of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation after he disclosed his mental health diagnosis. Temori alleges that the company discriminated against him for his sexual orientation, as well. In the lawsuit, Temori claims that he was given demeaning jobs, subjected to inappropriate comments, mocked, and eventually terminated after his diagnosis.

One of the things Temori was forced to do was create fake accounts on X (then Twitter) to troll movie and TV critics who gave HBO’s projects poor reviews. This initiative came from HBO CEO Casey Bloys, who had the idea in 2020 to start trolling critics on social media after he came across a critical Perry Mason review from Vulture‘s Kathryn VanArendonk. HBO Vice President Kathleen McCaffrey helped Bloys carry out the plot, and they eventually settled on having Temori do their dirty work. Bloys and McCaffrey directed Temori to make fake accounts and would then text him exactly what they wanted him to say in replies to critics’ reviews. Six instances of Bloys and McCaffrey engaging in this social media trolling have been found, with the two using fake accounts to leave snarky replies, criticisms, or rebuttals on critics’ reviews.

Meanwhile, HBO has admitted to the social media trolling. Bloys tried to make light of the situation by emphasizing how it was only “six tweets over a year and a half.” He also chalked it up to being just a “dumb idea” and claimed he has “progressed” since then. However, it doesn’t seem that Bloys will be abandoning his odd tiff with TV critics, as he mentioned he’ll DM them from now on instead of creating fake accounts. While Bloys and McCaffrey admitted to the trolling, they have neither responded to nor denied Temori’s other allegations.

Temori agreed to help with the petty social media campaign in hopes it would impress the higher-ups and earn him better opportunities. Instead, he was allegedly bullied over his sexual orientation and mental health diagnosis. Temori claims he was slapped on the butt and subjected to comments about his personal and sexual life. He also cites an incident where an HBO executive brought kittens into the office and forced Temori to play with them while joking it was “to improve his mental health.” Temori was eventually transferred to the set of The Idol to work as a script coordinator, and says he experienced further discrimination before being abruptly fired.

Considering that Temori’s allegations about the social media trolling are accurate, the other claims from his lawsuit should be very concerning. They also add greater weight to The Idol and Euphoria accusations, while raising questions about whether these cases were isolated or the result of HBO’s toxic culture trickling down from the highest executives at the network. These accusations are evidence of a very petty and unprofessional environment where even CEOs aren’t above trolling, bullying, and forcing their employees to engage in ridiculous feuds. When the people at the very top of the company are exhibiting such questionable behavior, you have to wonder what kind of impact that has on the workplace environment in general.

The outcome of Temori’s suit remains to be seen, but in light of these details—and considering the past few years of corporate tumult—a network-wide reform may be necessary.

(via Rolling Stone, featured image: Jeff Kravitz, Getty Images)

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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.