The Moral and Legal Obligations of CBS

Dear Mr. Moonves,

I've not had the privilege of meeting you, but I am among your many admirers. I don't know whether you're familiar with my legal work over the past half-century, but I have long been committed to the law not just as an abstract value but as an agent of human decency and mutual respect.

It is in that context that I was shocked and profoundly saddened by the painful ridicule of developmentally and intellectually challenged individuals featured in the Showtime Network comedy special, Gary Owen: I Agree With Myself .

In my many decades of working with Presidents, Senators, Representatives, Governors, and citizens dedicated to civil rights and human rights - President Obama and Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kagan and UN Ambassador Samantha Power have been among my students and research assistants at Harvard, and I have worked closely with Vice President Biden and the late Senator Edward Kennedy and Ambassador Sargent Shriver and his remarkable wife Eunice Shriver - I have encountered nothing more hateful or painful than this.

If racial or religious or ethnic minorities were the targets of Gary Owen's outrageous cruelty, I cannot imagine an organization with a reputation as hard-earned as that of CBS tolerating, much less facilitating, such hate speech on its media platform. This is not a matter of "political correctness," and I know nobody more dedicated to freedom of expression than me, but when words and images become the bullets that rip through the psychic and emotional flesh of the most vulnerable and often helpless among us, it is time for people of principle to stand up and say: "Enough!"

If Gary Owen is beyond shame, then it is the duty of people like David Nevins, President and CEO of Showtime Networks Inc., to blow the whistle. And if Mr. Nevins cannot find it in himself to stand up for what is decent and right, then, with all respect, it falls to you personally to do something about this clearly unacceptable situation before it reduces even more disadvantaged citizens to tears and worse.

I appreciate your reading this message and would be grateful for your timely response. Every day this material remains in a position to inflict unjustified pain - with no redeeming value to offset its injurious impact - is a day we should all feel ashamed of ourselves.

Thank you for hearing me out. I hope you will respond soon.

Yours respectfully,
Larry Tribe