ABC News said Saturday a top executive has been placed on administrative leave while the network investigates claims made in a HuffPost investigative report alleging the exec had a history of making racist remarks.
Barbara Fedida, senior vice president of talent, editorial strategy and business, oversees hiring and diversity for the network.
The HuffPost report by Yashar Ali claimed Fedida [shown above] has for years made insensitive and racist remarks in front of other employees, yet complaints about her behavior were ignored.
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The article cited interviews with 34 sources over six months, including current and former ABC News staff and talent.
Among the claims raised in the report, Fedida was sitting with colleagues in 2018 when she complained about Good Morning America co-anchor Robin Roberts asking for more money during contract negotiations. Fedida reportedly asked others what more Roberts, who is African American, could want and said it wasn’t as if the network was asking her to “pick cotton.”
The report cited an unnamed source who was in the room and two others who were not present, but were told about the comments.
Fedida is also accused of trying to block diversity and inclusion efforts that were part of her job description. ABC News executives, including Fedida, even reportedly referred to a letter from black staffers offering suggestions on increasing diversity as “the black manifesto.”
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The article additionally said Robin Roberts offered execs a list of qualified black candidates for consideration for several different jobs, but the candidates were ignored.
The story revealed Fedida was the subject of more than a dozen human resources complaints since 2016, adding that the network spent millions of dollars in confidential settlements with former talent and staff, including at least one settlement related to racial discrimination claims.
ABC News said Saturday there will be a thorough investigation into the allegations.
“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,” the network said in a statement to the media. “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.”
The National Association of Black Journalists, which was mentioned multiple times in the article, put out a statement demanding action.
“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,” the statement said. “We call for ABC News/Disney to immediately launch a transparent, external investigation led by a diverse law firm to examine all of the allegations detailed in the report, while conducting a thorough review of ABC News Executive Barbara Fedida, and the talent department that she has run at ABC News.”
Fedida, in a statement distributed by her lawyer, told HuffPost that she has always “been a champion for increased diversity in network news.”