ABC News Exec Barbara Fedida Placed on Administrative Leave After Report of Insensitive Comments
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ABC News said it put one of its executives on administrative leave after a suspected complaint about their behavior by Human Resources personnel was reported in a Huffington Post report.
Barbara Fedida joined ABC News for a second when Ben Sherwood, former division president, brought her on board in 2011 as senior vice president of talent and business. As part of this role, she had a strong impact on who hired ABC News and what career paths many journalists and news agency correspondents had. Over the years, she has been viewed by employees as an assistant to the unit's top managers and has acted as a sort of lieutenant for Sherwood and other ABC News officers. She is currently reporting to James Goldston, President of ABC News.
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The Huffington Post report cited interviews with 34 sources over a six-month period, including current and former ABC News employees and talents, as well as others familiar with the "inside of ABC News." The report accuses a series of insensitive comments, often with racist comments, that Fedida made to employees during her tenure.
One of the allegations in the story is a remark made when Fedida was involved in negotiations with Robin Roberts' contract for the anchor of "Good Morning America". When Fedida and her colleagues discussed how Roberts wanted more money from their contract renewal, Fedida claimed it wasn't as if ABC was asking them to "pick cotton." In another incident, Fedida reportedly asked company dinner attendees about mass shootings in the United States which ABC News employee was most likely to be an active shooter. Some employees filed complaints with the HR department after the incident, the report said.
"There are deeply troubling allegations in this story that we need to investigate, and we've put Barbara Fedida on vacation while we're conducting a thorough and thorough investigation," ABC News said in a statement. "These allegations do not reflect ABC News' values and culture, in which we strive to make everyone feel respected in a thriving, diverse, and inclusive workplace."
Fedida is the youngest media manager to be scrutinized as the industry addresses the aftermath of recent protests against George Floyd's death in police custody in Minneapolis. The response to Floyd's death has sparked a new national discussion about how people of all origins, races, and beliefs are treated in American society.
In the television news business, Fedida has played a crucial role behind the scenes, and her hiring decisions can help catapult careers to heaven. Over the years, she has been instrumental in recruiting and hiring well-known correspondents and moderators at ABC News and CBS News, including Tom Llamas, Sara Haines, Meghan McCain and Ginger Zee at ABC, as well as Jeff Glor, John Dickerson and Erica Hill and Seth Doane at CBS.
ABC News hired an executive coach for Fedida in 2016, according to the report. The article claims that a confidential agreement with a former ABC News employee included racial allegations of discrimination.
In a statement Fedida's lawyer had made to the Huffington Post, she said, “Throughout my career, I've been a supporter of the growing diversity of network messages. Building a news department where everyone can thrive was my life's work. I am proud of my decades of work hiring, supporting and promoting talented color journalists. And unlike these heartbreaking and incredibly misleading claims about me, this track record is well documented and undeniable. "
During Fedida's tenure, ABC News hired Sunny Hostin to work on "The View" and placed Michael Strahan under the central trio of anchors who moderate "Good Morning America". Eva Pilgrim, Marcus Moore and TJ Holmes are also among the colored people who received on-air assignments during their time in their roles.
Before returning to ABC in 2011, Fedida spent four years at CBS News, where she was vice president of talent and development. Before this job, she worked as a producer at ABC News and was active in the areas of talent, standards and practices. As a producer, she reported and produced stories and specials on stories ranging from the execution of Timothy McVeigh to the visit of Pope John Paul to Cuba, and was involved in programs that received the Emmy and Peabody Award. She won a duPont Award in 2002.
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