BET's Debra L. Lee roasted

Parsons, Dauman and McGrath get their digs

NEW YORK -- The gloves were off as Richard Parsons, Philippe Dauman and Judy McGrath delivered raucous roasts of BET Networks CEO Debra L. Lee at the annual Center for Communication Frank Stanton Award Luncheon.

Lee is only the second woman after Katherine Graham to be honored in the award ceremony's 24-year history. After growing up in the segregated South, the exec graduated from Brown and Harvard, going on to lead one of the biggest media networks in the world. But Lee's high-powered colleagues weren't about to let these achievements distract them at the Pierre Hotel Grand Ballroom ceremony Tuesday.

After an intro by A&E Television Networks head Abbe Raven, Viacom CEO Dauman launched a mock employee review of Lee, citing her "great reality programming ... Unfortunately, [Viacom and CBS chairman] Sumner [Redstone] has decided to pass on the 'Hell Date' guest spot you offered him."

A brief video appearance by Dora the Explorer (citing the fun a CEO can have "stepping on the people who were mean to you") was followed with MTV Networks CEO Judy McGrath. As with other panelists, she ribbed Lee about the protesters descending on her Washington DC home last year to criticize BET's programming, comparing Lee to Sarah Palin. "Sarah can see Russia from her house, and Debra can see protesters rushing her house," she said. "So she greenlit 'Hot Ghetto Mess.' She changed the name to 'We Got To Do Better,' which coincidentally is how every woman in this room feels when Sarah Palin opens her mouth."

Lead toaster/roaster and Time Warner chairman Parsons was relatively gentle on Lee, reserving his most vicious jokes for Viacom owner Redstone. "He thinks new media is morse code," joked Parsons. "Before you leave we're passing around the hat for National Amusements' new financing." he added, in a reference to the current financial troubles of Redstone's holding company.

The media-heavy crowd enjoyed a mockumentary short about her life (narrated by Ludacris) which pictured her as the only child of Lena Horne and Harry Belafonte, but it was Lee who got the last word.

"When I was asked to come here, I thought 'Weren't these the last words Tom Freston heard before Sumner Redstone invited him to this lunch?'" she said, alluding to Freston's departure shortly after he received the award two years ago. "And Dick, you're only hear for one reason: to make the Viacom people feel better about our stock price."
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