ABC News executive placed on administrative leave after reports surface of insensitive, racist statements
Barbara Fedida, a senior ABC News executive in charge of talent, is on administrative leave after a HuffPost report that detailed an alleged extensive history of making racist remarks and allegedly fostering and enabling a toxic and abusive workplace.
Fedida, who oversees hiring and diversity programs for the network in her role as senior vice president, reportedly lashed out at “Good Morning America” co-anchor Robin Roberts during contract negotiations in 2018.
Fedida told Roberts, who is Black, that it wasn’t as if the network was asking her to “pick cotton” after Roberts had asked for more money as part of her contract, according to a source that was in the room during the exchange, according to HuffPost.
Two other sources who were not in the room, but had knowledge of the situation also confirmed the exchange to the news outlet.
In another instance, black ABC staffers were concerned about a planned town hall event with former President Barack Obama in 2016, that focused on race relations. The people on the planning committee and moderator were all white, and sources told the HuffPost that Fedida and ABC executives dismissed a letter from black staffers as a “Black manifesto.”
ABC News reportedly responded to a fact checking request by HuffPost saying Fedida would be put on administrative leave while the allegations are investigated.
HuffPost said that it interviewed 34 current and former ABC News staff and talent.
In a statement to The Hill, an ABC News spokesperson said: “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. 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.”
Fedida told HuffPost through her attorney that the allegations are misleading.
“I am proud of my decades of work of hiring, supporting and promoting talented journalists of color,” the attorney statement said. “And, unlike these heartbreaking and incredibly misleading claims about me, that track record is well-documented and undeniable.”
The National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) responded to the HuffPost story by calling for a “transparent, external investigation led by a diverse law firm” and for them to suspend confidentiality agreements with any black employees.
The organization also called for a meeting with top leadership of ABC News and its parent company, Disney.
“This external investigation by ABC News should be transparent, and all findings must be published and broadcast,” the NABJ statement read.
“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.”