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David Zaslav Receives Sharp Response From Writer's Strike Supporters During Boston University Speech

After the recent cancellation of several popular or promising shows and film projects such as "Westworld," "Batgirl," Strange Adventures," and "Gordita Chronicles," Warner Discovery CEO David Zaslav is not the most popular figure in media by any means. The ongoing WGA writer's strike has not helped his case. Despite all that, The 1985 graduate of Boston University's law school was still chosen by his alma mater as this year's featured speaker and given an honorary Doctor of Laws degree during the university's 150th commencement ceremony on May 21. 

In introducing Zaslav and conferring the honorary degree, university President Dr. Robert A. Brown cited Zaslav's work with Steven Spielberg and the University of Southern California's Shoah Foundation, which in 2015 commemorated the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Zaslav's homeland of Poland. 

Brown told how Zaslav and Spielberg had recognized that the last of the survivors of the Holocaust were nearing their final days and recognized the importance of preserving their stories, telling Zaslav that "Generations past, present and future are in your debt. We proudly call you an alumnus." The assembled crowd, which had become restless while Dr. Brown had talked about Zaslav's history as a media executive, politely applauded the mention of his work on the holocaust project but quickly turned sour again once he took the podium. Zaslav had barely finished thanking the university and Dr. Brown and congratulating the other honorary degree recipients when a chant of "Pay your writers" began to rise from the crowd.

"It's hard to believe almost 40 years have passed since I began my journey right here at Boston University," Zaslav began. But once he launched into his speech, it didn't take long for the crowd to start hurling profanities his way.

The crowd quickly turned even more hostile toward Zaslav

While he told tales of studying in the law library, eating his way through Faneuil Hall Marketplace, and waiting for public transportation with his friends, the assembled crowd of new graduates became less interested in his old stories and grew louder in their support of the striking Writer's Guild of America workers. "F— you, you piece of s—," one crowd member could clearly be heard shouting. Zaslav tried to soldier on.

"Last night, I got on the T just to go down memory lane," he continued, through growing shouts of "Shut up, Zaslav."

In any other year, the speech he ultimately delivered would have been completely forgettable with its pandering references to campus and city landmarks and his weak attempts to hand life advice to an audience completely unwilling to accept it. But as each sentence got more trite and boilerplate, the audience turned further against him.

Zaslav tried to tell what he must have once thought was the inspiring story of his rise from young law student to high-powered entertainment executive, but the young graduates continued to make it clear that they have a far different set of values than the 63-year-old multimillionaire and made that loudly evident throughout his address. WGA members also picketed outside the ceremony. Pro-union signs were displayed during his speech, and Deadline reported that a plane flew a pro-union banner above the ceremony.