‘Absolutely Impossible’ That ABC News Chief James Goldston Was Unaware of Exec’s ‘Racist’ Behavior
Photo illustration by The Daily Beast / Photo Reuters
UK-born television manager James Goldston, president of ABC News since April 2014, is known among colleagues and subordinates for his obsessive attention to detail and practical involvement in programming the news department.
For example, several ABC News insiders who had asked not to be identified for fear of possible reprisals told The Daily Beast that the credibility of believing that Goldston was aware of the allegedly abusive behavior of a longtime lieutenant, Barbara, had been raised Fedida, not aware of it.
Fedida, senior vice president of talent relations and business affairs for Disney's own news department - a powerful executive responsible for hiring and developing ABC journalists and negotiating their contracts - was the subject of a damn HuffPost story about her allegedly racist, racially insensitive, and other ugly comments on on-air news speakers and correspondents who happened to be black.
"Absolutely impossible," said an ABC News veteran about the likelihood that Goldston would not be aware of Fedida's behavior, particularly because Goldston had heard complaints directly from representatives of ABC News talent. A knowledgeable source reported how a prominent talent agent recently complained specifically to the head of the news department about one of Fedida's insulting comments about a customer and that Goldston agreed that Fedida's trash talk was unacceptable.
"I've had the experience that he literally produces and unsubscribes every show, and I don't know how much more weed you can get," said ABC News veteran about Goldston's granular attention to detail. "His biggest news verdict is that something is" boring, "and if James says it's boring, you can be sure that it's not near the top of a program or isn't even on the program."
Fedida's job - where she often had to deliver bad news about her career - is not meant to increase her popularity. This was even less so because she is known to favor brutal dullness over tact and diplomacy.
Sunny Hostin: "Sorry" that ABC News Exec called me "Low Rent"
Her behavior was, according to a source, one of the factors that led to a hard letter to Goldston and his boss, then Disney / ABC Television Group president Ben Sherwood, with the names of 12 black journalists on ABC News, including Good Morning American star Robin Roberts, The View co-host Sunny Hostin, and Justice Department correspondent Pierre Thomas are listed below.
Fedida mockingly called the letter "The Black Manifesto", according to Yashar Ali from HuffPost. The letter was distributed informally to the group, but never officially to Sherwood, according to a black on-air ABC journalist who turned to The Daily Beast after being told this story by the network's PR department and Goldston, who apparently received a copy anyway, and the sometimes confrontational wording of the letter was not accepted by the 12 journalists named as signers.
"While we see our numbers on camera, we are frustrated, demoralized, and upset by the lack of black voices in our newsrooms," said the August 17, 2016 letter, which was deliberately not directed to Fedida, a source told The Daily Beast because she was seen as an opponent by some in the group.
The letter stated in bullet points: “No black senior producers at World News Tonight; No black senior producers at Nightline; Just a black senior producer at Good Morning America; Just a black senior producer at 20/20. "
The letter continued: “The lack of African-American representation in key editorial positions is not only unacceptable, but also bad for the news department, as is often painfully evident in our reporting. Most recently, we felt that the network's town hall, when it ran with President Obama - an event moderated by David Muir in July 2016 - completely failed in its efforts to promote meaningful dialogue on race issues, which has been confirmed in our community. However, this was an avoidable mistake. Would only a senior black person have been involved in a black people special? "
The memo outlined seven specific suggestions to address the situation, including adding a black senior producer to World News Tonight and a black senior producer "per shift" at GMA, and adding a black senior producer to Nightline.
Also applied for: Kendis Gibson officially appointed anchor of World News Now and America This Morning - ABC's nightly and early morning news broadcasts, Hostin officially appointed The View co-host, Ron Claiborne officially appointed GMA news anchor The weekend and the black on-air journalists from ABC regularly receive a "respectful discussion about individual goals, strengths and areas for improvement".
A knowledgeable insider said Goldston knew the letter but may not have read it. In a tense and open meeting between Goldston and the black journalists specifically designed to discuss their complaints, some, if not others, realized at the meeting that the President of ABC News had received and studied the letter.
However, it seems undisputed that Goldston discussed the concerns and recommendations, point by point, according to participants. Since then, Goldston has held regular meetings with correspondents and anchors from Black ABC News.
"James welcomed the opportunity to hear from and meet with this group on a regular basis," an ABC News spokesman told The Daily Beast. “These conversations have led to positive changes in the news department. As we progress, there is more to be done and we are committed to it. "
ABC News declined The Daily Beast's invitation to list all of the steps Goldston has taken in the past four years to address the concerns of the letter.
However, the on-air personality who turned to The Daily Beast said that several high-profile black producers have been installed in several news department programs, even in recent weeks. This person also noted that last August Goldston hired longtime PBS manager Marie Nelson, who is Black, to take on the new position of senior vice president of integrated content strategy with the mission of diversifying ABC News content.
In the meantime, ABC News announced that Fedida was on administrative leave pending an investigation into HuffPost's allegations.
The malicious story said that during the contract renewal talks with Robin Roberts representatives, Fedida contradicted the GMA anchor's call for more money, noting that she had already earned enough and "it wasn't as if the Roberts network was asking Cotton to pick. '"
Fedida reportedly vilified Kendis Gibson by stating that ABC "spends more on toilet paper than ever on him." Gibson, ABC News correspondent and presenter for five years, traveled to MSNBC in January 2019.
On Twitter after his story was published last Saturday, HuffPost's Ali reported that Fedida also called Hostin "low rent" - which triggered an emotional reaction from Hostin and her co-hosts to The View's Monday issue.
"It was a tough weekend for me," said Hostin. "And I was really disappointed and sad and hurt when I heard about the racist comments that were supposedly made about me, my colleagues and my dear friends."
Hostin added, "It's the kind of racism that black people deal with every day and it has to stop, and I'm looking forward to the results of an independent external investigation."
Ron Claiborne meanwhile withdrew from ABC News in 2018 - at management's suggestion, a source said. Claiborne did not respond to voicemail or text messages.
Long-time 20/20 correspondent Deborah Roberts, married to NBC's Al Roker, was said to have been "deeply disappointed" in April 2018 when Goldston appointed Amy Robach and not Roberts to anchor the prime time show.
Read more at The Daily Beast.
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