ABC News has placed one of its top executives on administrative leave amid accusations of racial prejudice.
Disney, ABC’s parent company, launched an investigation into executive ABC News’ senior vice president of talent and business affairs Barbara Fedida over allegations that she made racially insensitive comments. According to an exclusive Huffington Post report, in a 2018 meeting about renewing Good Morning America co-anchor Robin Roberts’s contract, Fedida “asked what more Roberts could want” and said it wasn’t as if the network was asking Roberts to “pick cotton.” She also reportedly referred to The View co-host Sunny Hostin as “low rent.”
“There are deeply disturbing allegations in this story that we need to investigate, and we have placed Barbara Fedida on administrative leave while we conduct a thorough and complete investigation,” ABC News management said in a statement. “These allegations do not represent the values and culture of ABC News, where we strive to make everyone feel respected in a thriving, diverse and inclusive workplace.”
In a statement from her attorney, Fedida said: “Throughout my career, I have been a champion for increased diversity in network news. Building a news division where everyone can thrive has been my life’s mission. I am proud of my decades of work of hiring, supporting and promoting talented journalists of color. And, unlike these heartbreaking and incredibly misleading claims about me, that track record is well-documented and undeniable.”
National Association of Black Journalists has released a statement pertaining to the news of the investigation of Fedida.
“The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) is appalled at the allegations of discriminatory hiring practices and treatment of Black employees by a powerful ABC News executive,” said the organization. “NABJ calls on ABC News to waive its confidentiality agreements with any Black employees and other employees of color, and permit prior and current employees to speak on the record absent of reprisals if they choose to do so.
“This external investigation by ABC News should be transparent, and all findings must be published and broadcast. This is appropriate because Fedida was no second-tier executive. This top ABC News executive wielded arguably the most power at the network in determining the fates of Black employees in terms of hiring and contracts. The careers of many at ABC News, as well as their future advancement, was literally in her hands.”
The organization went on to call for a meeting with the top leadership at ABC News and Disney.
“We strongly advise media companies to engage with NABJ regarding its formalized Media Diversity Blueprint built for organizations struggling with or in denial about diversity issues among its employment ranks.”