CBS Moves to Dismiss ‘SEAL Team’ Lawsuit by White Male Writer Opposed to Diverse Hiring

CBS and parent company Paramount Global have filed a motion to dismiss the discrimination suit brought forward by a “SEAL Team” writer, who alleged the network “repeatedly” discriminated against him for being a straight, white man.

The request to dismiss the complaint comes more than two months after “SEAL Team” script coordinator and freelance scriptwriter Brian Beneker alleged he was passed over for a staff writer position white the network “favored” “nonwhite,” “LGBTQ” or “female” writers who lack “experience and screenwriting credits.”

Molly Lens, the partner from O’Melveny & Myers partner who filed the request on Thursday, argued the suit be thrown away “on the grounds that CBS has a constitutional right under the First Amendment to select the writers whose work shapes CBS’s artistic enterprise.”

Lens explained in the filing that the First Amendment “displaces applications of statutes, including anti-discrimination laws, that would force an expressive enterprise [like CBS] to compromise its own message.” She argued that granting Beneker relief in the matter would, in turn, “contravene the First Amendment” and should be dismissed on that basis alone.

“The allegations in Beneker’s [second amended complaint] amply demonstrate that holding CBS liable for declining to hire him would prevent CBS from hiring the storytellers whom CBS believes are best suited to tell the stories CBS wants to produce and broadcast,” the filing read.

While Lens argued that the First Amendment protects the “artistic choice” to prioritize diversity and argued the suit should be thrown out entirely, even putting aside that argument, she further argued that “Beneker’s complaint should be narrowed because many of his allegations fall outside of the relevant statutes of limitations and fail to allege necessary elements of his anti-discrimination claims.”

The filing goes on to establish CBS TV series as “protected speech” under the First Amendment, meaning that “the scripts that form the basis for each episode are
also protected speech.”

“Because CBS’s works are expressive, CBS has the right to select employees
whose work affects that expression,” the filing read. “Under the First Amendment principle of speaker’s autonomy, CBS is entitled to ‘deference’ both in developing its artistic message and in determining who conveys that message, including the decision it makes in assembling the writers’ room.”

“SEAL Team” is set to end after its upcoming seventh 7 on Paramount+, where it after previously airing on CBS, it’s unclear how Beneker’s desire to be instated as a full-time producer on the series would play out. Beneker also seeks $500,000 in damages for his alleged lost wages.

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