The chief executive of HBO has apologised to TV critics after a fake Twitter account was used to respond to negative reviews of shows on his television network.
Casey Bloys, who is also the chief executive of the Max network, has admitted coming up with the “dumb idea” after Rolling Stone published a story detailing a lawsuit brought against him and HBO by former employee Sully Temori.
Mr Temori claims to have been wrongfully terminated in a separate matter to his claim he was asked to set up a fake account on Twitter, now known as X.
In text messages sent during 2020 and 2021, which are being prepared as evidence in Mr Temori’s case, Mr Bloys and Kathleen McCaffrey, HBO’s senior vice president of drama programming, repeatedly discuss using fake accounts on the social media site to reply to critics who spoke negatively about HBO series.
The messages show Ms McCaffrey texted in April 2021: “Casey is looking for a tweeter … he’s mad at Alan Sepinwall.
“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 messages also show Mr Bloys wanted someone to respond to Vulture TV critic Kathryn VanArendonk for a tweet about the show Perry Mason, Rolling Stone’s Alan Sepinwall for his reviews of The Nevers and Mare of Easttown, and The New York Times’ James Poniewozik and Mike Hale for commentary on The Nevers.
Rolling Stone reports that the text messages, provided by Mr Temori, were reviewed and verified via their metadata.
Mr Temori, who was an executive assistant at the time of the messages, claims he was instructed to make an account on Twitter to reply to negative reviews from critics.
He created such an account and attributed it to a fake woman called Kelly Shepard, a self-described vegan mum from Texas.
Mr Temori has also said he left anonymous comments on some articles on the entertainment website Deadline in response to other users’ negative remarks about HBO shows.
He said Mr Bloys, a respected media executive who is credited for shows including The White Lotus and Succession, asked him to leave the comments.
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Mr Bloys also instructed other members of staff to create accounts to reply to anonymous Deadline comments in July 2020, according to the texts.
Speaking at an event in New York to promote HBO and Max’s upcoming programmes, which was attended by some of the critics who were mentioned in the texts, Mr Bloys said he was “very very passionate” about his network’s programmes and came up with a “very dumb idea to vent my frustration”.
He added that six tweets were posted in response to TV critics over a period of a year and a half.
“But I do apologise to the people who were mentioned in the leaked emails, texts,” he said.
Mr Bloys earlier said at the event: “Obviously, nobody wants to be part of a story that they have nothing to do with. But also, as many of you know, I have progressed over the past couple of years to using DMs.
“So now, when I take issue with something in a review, or take issue with something I see, many of you are gracious enough to engage with me in a back and forth and I think that is a probably a much healthier way to go about this.
“But we’ll talk more about that, and you guys can ask me anything you want in the Q&A. I just wanted to put that out there.”
Ms Temori’s wrongful termination lawsuit centres around his claim he was harassed and faced retaliation and discrimination after disclosing a mental health diagnosis to his bosses.