HBO Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Casey Bloys created multiple faux social media accounts to troll TV critics who published unflattering reviews of HBO programs, according to an in-depth look at the executive in Rolling Stone.
Texts supporting this claim came out during testimony provided by a former employee during a wrongful termination suit against HBO. Rolling Stone noted several instances where Bloys sought out accounts to comment on his behalf or requested staffers make fake ones to respond.
The controversy is a bizarre turn of events for a typical wrongful termination lawsuit. Bloys himself admitted his troll campaign was a “very, very dumb idea” and claims working from home and spending “an unhealthy amount of time scrolling through Twitter” contributed to his actions, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Instead of remaining professional or taking to social media to defend the shows himself, he chose a more covert, manipulative tactic.
In one instance, Bloys took issue with a tweet from Vulture TV critic Katheryn VanArendonk, who posted her lack of enthusiasm about the HBO series Perry Mason, saying, “Please find some way to communicate male trauma besides showing me a flashback to the hero’s memories of trench warfare.”
He sent the tweet to Kathleen McCaffrey, HBO’s senior vice president of drama and programming, along with this text.
“Maybe a Twitter user should tweet that that’s a pretty blithe response to what soldiers legitimately go through on [the] battlefield,” Bloys texted McCaffrey, according to Rolling Stone. “Do you have a secret handle? Couldn’t we say especially given that it’s D-Day to dismiss a soldier’s experience like that seems pretty disrespectful… this must be answered!”
The texts in question were sent between June 2020 and April 2021. Bloys and McCaffrey discussed finding a “mole” to work at “arm’s length” to defend HBO content receiving negative fanfare from critics, including forming what they call a “secret army” to defend programs.
A spokesperson for HBO was not immediately available for comment. But Variety reported that Bloys has apologized to the critics for the tweet.
Former HBO executive assistant Temori submitted copies of the texts to the court to support his claim HBO “fosters a dynamic of ongoing harassment and discrimination in the workplace,” according to his attorney, Michael Martinez.
“They joke about people outside of HBO, they joke about people within HBO… You suffer through some bullying until you can’t suffer anymore,” said Martinez, according to Rolling Stone.
Temori began working at HBO as a temp in 2015 and took on the role of executive assistant in 2017. He worked on shows like The Idol until being laid off in October 2021. He claimed he suffered retaliation, discrimination, and sexual harassment after disclosing a mental illness to his bosses.
He said McCaffrey approached him in June 2020, asking him to take over Bloys’ fake social media campaign.
“He always texts me asking me to find a friend to reply… is there a way to create a dummy account that can’t be traced to us to do his bidding,” texted McCaffrey.
Temori was tasked to create fake online accounts to respond to critics on Bloys’ behalf and provided numerous texts supporting his claim, including ones from McCaffrey calling Bloys “obsessed with Twitter” and saying he “always wants to pick a fight on Twitter.”
Texts also show McCaffrey and Bloys plotting to covertly respond to Alan Sepinwall, TV critic for Rolling Stone, as Kelly Shepherd, a “Texas mom and herbalist.”
“Casey is looking for a tweeter… he’s mad at Alan Sepinwall,” texted McCaffrey to Temori. “Can our secret operative please tweet at Alan’s review: ‘Alan is always predictably safe and scared in his opinions.’ And then we have to delete this chain right? Omg I just got scared lol.”
The texts also target New York Times chief TV critic James Poniewozik over his take on The Nevers, saying, “feels like watching a show that someone has mysteriously deleted 25% of the scenes from.” In response, Bloys texted McCaffrey, “Maybe our friends need to say what a shock it is that two middle-aged white men are shitting on a show about women,” to which McCaffrey replied, “I fucking hate these people, yes.” Kelly Shepherd posted a nearly identical tweet on X after this exchange.
HBO “intends to vigorously defend against Mr. Temori’s allegations” in a statement to Rolling Stone. “We look forward to a full and fair resolution of this dispute.”