HBO CEO and Chairman Chief Casey Bloys led off a presentation about 2024 programming Thursday by addressing a Rolling Stone report that said he had someone troll TV critics on X who didn’t like his shows.
“We’re here to talk about ’24, but I thought we might as well talk about it up front,” he began at the start of the presentation. “For those of you who know me, you know I am a programming executive who is very, very passionate about the shows that we decide to do and the people who do them and the people who work on them. I want the shows to be great. I want people to love them. I want you all to love them. It’s very, very important to me what you think of all the shows.”
“So when you think of that mindset, and think of 2020 and 2021, I am home, working from home, spending an unhealthy amount of time scrolling through Twitter and I come up with a very, very dumb idea to vent my frustration. Obviously, six tweets over a year and a half is not very effective. But I do apologize to the people who were mentioned in the leaked emails and texts. Obviously, nobody wants to be part of a story they had nothing to do with.”
“But also as many of you know, I have progressed over the past couple of years to using DMs. Now, when take issue with something in a review or take issue with something I see, I DM many of you and many of you are gracious enough to engage with me in a back and forth. It’s a probably a much healthier way to go about this.”
Rolling Stone reported Thursday that Bloys took issue with reviews from Vulture‘s Kathryn VanArendonk, Rolling Stone‘s Alan Sepinwall and NYT‘s James Poniewozik, so he suggested to HBO’s SVP of drama programming Kathleen McCaffrey that someone respond to their criticism via X.
An assistant named Sully Temori, who is now suing HBO for wrongful termination, was given the task in June 2020 to write responses. The decision was ultimately made to ignore VanArendonk’s review, but Sepinwall and Poniewozik were targeted via the X account of Kelly Shepherd, a so-called mom and herbalist from Texas with four followers. The tweets are no longer available on the platform but the account remains active.
Sepinwall was trolled for his “predictably safe” opinions about The Nevers while Poniewozik was targeted for being a middle aged white man who was “shitting on a show about women” when he posted something about The Nevers.
The old tweets were not listed in a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles Superior Court in July. Temori, who joined the network in 2015 and was laid off in October of 2021, is alleging harassment and discrimination after he revealed a mental health diagnosis to the higher ups. HBO is listed as a defendant, as well as McCaffrey, Francesca Orsi, HBO’s head of drama; as well as Abel “the Weeknd” Tesfaye and two producers for The Idol.
In a statement to Deadline, HBO said it “intends to vigorously defend against Mr. Temori’s allegations. We look forward to a full and fair resolution of this dispute. In the meantime, we wish Mr. Temori, a former HBO employee, well in his future endeavors.”
The Rolling Stone report also said Bloys zeroed in on Deadline commenters who took a swipe at his leadership when he canceled Run and when he picked up Bridget Everett’s Somebody Somewhere. When Deadline covered the announcement in 2020, a commenter wrote “HBO became a joke as soon as Lombardo left the current group.” It went on to make disparaging remarks about Bloys and Orsi.
At the request of Bloys, Rolling Stone reported, Temori replied to the comment with “Hi David Levine! HBO seems just fine thanks!’”
Levine was HBO’s co-head of drama who left in 2019 to join Anonymous Content.