UPDATED: Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav felt the effect of the WGA strike while delivering a commencement speech at Boston University May 21, getting jeered and facing chants of “pay your writers” while he was trying to speak. Ten days later, the university’s president published an op-ed in the school’s newspaper chastising the students for their behavior and apologizing to Zaslav.
“Late Night with Seth Meyers” writer Mike Scollins posted a video of one moment during the address in which the chant was loud enough to make Zaslav pause in the middle of his speech. Scollins captioned the video “Zaslav getting hit with a Pay Your Writers chant in Boston. This is so good.”
In a statement after the speech, Zaslav expressed gratitude to the university where he earned his law degree in 1985. He didn’t reference the Writers Guild of America strike at the commencement, but he did afterward.
“I am grateful to my alma mater, Boston University, for inviting me to be part of today’s commencement and for giving me an honorary degree, and, as I have often said, I am immensely supportive of writers and hope the strike is resolved soon and in a way that they feel recognizes their value,” Zaslav said.
In an op-ed published by BU Today May 31, outgoing Boston University president Robert Brown reacted to the “painful and embarrassing to witness” response received by Zaslav at the commencement, writing: “Our students were not picking a fight. They were attempting to implement the cancel culture.” According to Brown, he has apologized to the WBD CEO for the students’ behavior, which he saw as a “willingness to spoil the occasion for these literally thousands of guests to not only make a point, but also literally prevent the speaker from conveying his message.”
“The students who were appallingly coarse and deliberately abusive to Mr. Zaslav were entitled to attend Commencement because they were being awarded degrees that they earned from Boston University,” Brown wrote. “They sought to make a statement, out of passionate conviction, but in the moment, they forgot that in a liberal democracy, personal autonomy and freedom of speech come with responsibilities. One responsibility, particularly in an institution for which freedom of speech is the oxygen that sustains our mission, is respect for the speech rights of others. The deliberate effort to silence a speaker is at odds with this fundamental value. I am disappointed that some members of our graduating student body seem painfully unaware—or perhaps even hostile to—this idea.”
Photos shared on social media showed WGA writers and members of other unions picketing outside of the graduation ceremony.
Zaslav spoke about the strike on May 5 after the release of the company’s Q1 earnings report.
“In order to create great storytelling, we need great writers, and we need the whole industry to work together,” he said during an interview on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “And everybody deserves to be paid fairly. So our number one focus is, let’s try and get this resolved. Let’s do it in a way that that the writers feel that they’re valued, which they are, and they’re compensated fairly. And then off we go. Let’s tell great stories together.”