Les Moonves calls 'Big Brother' racism 'absolutely appalling'

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CBS Corp. CEO Les Moonves defended the network’s handling of controversial content on long-running reality series Big Brother this summer, while saying that he personally found the behavior of certain contestants “appalling.”

Big Brother is obviously a social experiment, it always was,” Moonves says. “Clearly that’s what’s happening this year. I find some of the behavior absolutely appalling, personally. What you see there, I think it, unfortunately, is reflective of how certain people feel in America. It’s what our show is. I think we’ve handled it properly. Obviously, a lot of it makes us uncomfortable … we did not comment on some of the racial things being said until it really affected what was going on in the household.”

Moonves added that he watches every episode of the show, noting his wife and Big Brother host Julie Chen “would kill me if I didn’t.” Yet when asked what conversations they might have had about the show’s controversy, he said: “I’m not going to tell you what goes on in my home.”

Moonves was addressing reporters at the network’s Television Critics Association press tour session in Beverly Hills on Monday morning. The chief executive was stepping in for programming president Nina Tassler, who is attending a funeral.

One critic asked Moonves — who has final approval on the casting of his network’s reality shows — if casting directors “try too hard” sometimes to cast provocative personalities. “There’s no such thing as trying too hard. Obviously, you don’t want wallflowers on reality shows. You’re going to take people that are interesting. You know, sometimes that leads to controversy.”

Contestants on this season of Big Brother have been caught on the game’s 24-hour-a-day Internet feed making racist comments. Some of the comments have been shown on episodes of the program, and one telecast included a disclaimer warning viewers against “prejudice” in the episode.

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