GQ pulls article slamming Warner Bros. Discovery CEO Zaslav after complaint

In an unusual step, GQ magazine removed an article critical of powerful media executive David Zaslav from its website just hours after it was published Monday, following a complaint from Zaslav’s camp.

The story, by freelance film critic Jason Bailey, excoriated the CEO of Warner Bros. Discovery for his handling of the company’s entertainment properties — specifically perceived crimes against film, such as the layoffs at the Turner Classic Movies channel that outraged prominent directors and other superfans and his decision to not release finished movies such as “Batgirl” for tax purposes. At one point, Bailey compared Zaslav to tyrannical “Succession” patriarch Logan Roy.

“In a relatively short period of time, David Zaslav has become perhaps the most hated man in Hollywood,” Bailey wrote.

A Zaslav spokesman complained to GQ about the story soon after it was published, according to people close to the process who spoke on the condition of anonymity to preserve confidences. By early afternoon on Monday, the magazine had made extensive edits to the story.

Archived versions of the original and edited versions of the article show significant changes that had the effect of softening its tone. A line calling Zaslav “the most hated man in Hollywood” was deleted. The “Succession” comparison was removed, as was a segment where Bailey called the reality shows that Zaslav oversaw while running Discovery “reality slop.”

The final paragraphs of the original article compared Zaslav to the pitiless businessman played by Richard Gere in “Pretty Woman,” with Bailey writing that the executive is “only good at breaking things.”

The ending of the edited article was much kinder to Zaslav, removing the “Pretty Woman” reference and simply noting that film aficionados’ complaints have “gotten personal.”

Bailey told The Washington Post that, after GQ made the changes, he asked editors to remove his byline. He said an editor told him that GQ would not keep an article on its website without the author’s name. By Monday afternoon, the article was removed entirely from the site.

“I wrote what I felt was the story I was hired to write,” Bailey said. “When I was asked to rewrite it after publication, I declined. The rewrite that was done was not to my satisfaction, so I asked to have my name removed and was told that the option there was to pull the article entirely, and I was fine with that.”

In a statement, a GQ spokeswoman said the article “was not properly edited before going live.”

“After a revision was published, the writer of the piece asked to have their byline removed, at which point GQ decided to unpublish the piece in question,” the statement read. “GQ regrets the editorial error that [led] to a story being published before it was ready.”

A spokesman for Warner Bros. Discovery said it complained to GQ about the article because Bailey didn’t ask the company for comment before publishing.

“The freelance reporter made no attempt to reach out to Warner Bros Discovery to fact-check the substance of the piece before publishing—a standard practice for any reputable news outlet,” the statement read. “As is also standard practice, we contacted the outlet and asked that numerous inaccuracies be corrected. In the process of doing so, the editors ultimately decided to pull the piece.”

Bailey confirmed that he did not ask Warner Bros. Discovery for comment for the article, but he disputed the idea that the piece contained “numerous inaccuracies.” Bailey said his editors at GQ never told him the piece was inaccurate, and the edited version of the article did not contain a correction.

“I think a side-by-side comparison of the piece before and after GQ’s internal edits reveals exactly what WBD wanted changed, and that GQ was happy to do so,” Bailey wrote in an email to The Post.

GQ has a corporate connection to Warner Bros. Discovery. The magazine’s parent company, Condé Nast, is owned by Advance Publications, a major shareholder in Warner Bros. Discovery. Advance Publications did not respond to a request for comment.

The edits and eventual deletion of the story angered top film critics. On Twitter, writer Scott Tobias said the edited version of the story was “completely unacceptable,” while critic Matt Zoller Seitz shared the archived version of Bailey’s article. Critic Hunter Harris illustrated the controversy on Twitter with a screenshot from HBO’s “The Wire” — another Warner Bros. Discovery property — in which fan-favorite stickup artist Omar Little describes a rival operation as “very sloppy.”

The flap over the GQ article is just the latest controversy for Zaslav, who has presided over cuts at Warner Bros. Discovery as it works to pay off nearly $50 billion in debt. The company’s stock price has fallen by about half since April 2022, when Discovery and WarnerMedia merged in a $43 billion deal.

Zaslav has also faced challenges managing Warner Bros. Discovery’s most prominent cable property, CNN. Zaslav fired his handpicked CEO, Chris Licht, in June after months of management turmoil at the news giant, culminating in Licht’s ill-advised participation in a profile in the Atlantic that suggested that Licht was out of his depth.

This article has been updated.

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