When HBO and Max CEO Casey Bloys took the stage at Warner Bros. Discovery headquarters in New York City on Thursday morning to preview the 2024 TV slate for press, he couldn’t not address the elephant in the room.
A day earlier, Rolling Stone had published an article about a wrongful termination lawsuit filed by a former HBO assistant, which revealed that Bloys instructed some employees in 2020 and 2021 to create fake Twitter accounts to troll TV critics who had written unfavorably about programs like Perry Mason and The Nevers.
Though an HBO spokesperson had said the network was “not going to comment on select exchanges between programmers and errant tweets,” Bloys did acknowledge the row on Thursday.
“We’re here to talk about 2024, but I thought I might as well talk about it up front,” he told the gathered journalists. “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 important to me what you think of all the shows.”
Bloys continued: “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.”
Critics mentioned in the texts who were targeted by fake Twitter accounts included Vulture’s Kathryn VanArendonk, Rolling Stone‘s Alan Sepinwall, and the New York Times‘ James Poniewozik. One of the phony accounts, billed as mom and herbalist from Texas named Kelly Shepherd, called out Sepinwall for being “predictably safe” in his opinions about The Nevers and labeled Poniewozik a middle-aged white man “s—ting on a show about women” in response to his critiques of the same show. The messages are no longer available on the social media platform, which is now known as X.
“As many of you know, I have progressed over the past couple of years to using DMs,” Bloys added. “Now when I 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. And I think that is probably a much healthier way to go about this.”