Debra Messing Calls Out E! Salary Dispute During E! News Interview

The 'Will & Grace' star was the first actress to be interviewed by E! host Giuliana Rancic ahead of Sunday's Golden Globes.

The first guest on E! Live From the Red Carpet at Sunday's Golden Globes was Debra Messing, and she wasted no time questioning host Giuliana Rancic about her network's policy on gender pay equality.

Both women were dressed in black, a last-minute sweeping fashion choice made in solidarity to stand up against sexual harassment and sexual assault, and to promote equality.

Telling viewers that the night will be filled with talk about the Time's Up initiative launched by 300 prominent Hollywood women, Rancic explained a big change in E's red-carpet coverage to viewers and Messing: "We're not asking who are you wearing, we're asking why are you wearing black tonight?"

Messing said the fashion choice is to stand in solidarity with her sisters all over the globe and to honor the brave women who have come forward to share their stories of sexual harassment, assault and discrimination. The actress then turned talk to former E! News host Catt Sadler, who revealed recently that she had left the network after learning she made less than half the salary of her male counterpart, Jason Kennedy.

"Time is up. We want diversity. We want intersectional gender parity, we want equal pay," Messing told Rancic. "I was so shocked to hear that E! doesn't believe in paying their female co-hosts the same as their male co-hosts. I miss Catt Sadler, and so we stand with her. And that's something that can change tomorrow. We want people to start having this conversation that women are just as valuable as men."

Rancic said she agreed before turning the conversation back to the Time's Up initiative and legal defense fund (which has already raised $15 million since its Jan. 1 launch), where Messing stressed their mission of equal representation in every global industry.

Actresses Laura Dern, Sarah Jessica Parker and Eva Longoria also brought up the E! salary issue when speaking with host Ryan Seacrest on the carpet about Time's Up. "I know it's affected your network," said Parker about parity, putting her hands on a listening Seacrest's shoulders. "I know that there have been conversations that have been challenging for all of us, but I think it's incredibly timely. It's exciting. And parity and equality and safe work environments, they shouldn't be controversial."

Longoria, flanked by the Big Little Lies duo of Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman, told Seacrest: "We support gender equity and equal pay, and we hope that E! follows that lead with Catt as well. We stand with you, Catt." Seacrest replied, "We love Catt, we love her."

The red-carpet moment comes on the heels of Sadler's Dec. 19 statement. The host, who had been at E! for 12 years, posted her explanation on her style and beauty blog, The Catt Walk, explaining that negotiations had fallen apart because she was unwilling to accept an offer that was not on par with what Kennedy was earning. "When E reached out to renew and extend my deal, I learned that he wasn't just making a little more than I was. In fact, he was making close to double my salary for the past several years," she posted. "The gender pay gap is shrinking, although admittedly we have a long way to go. And well, I learned this first hand. My team and I asked for what I know I deserve and were denied repeatedly."

An E! spokesperson confirmed a statement put out by the network that gender inequality was not to blame and that E! "compensates employees fairly and appropriately based on their roles, regardless of gender." At issue was their respective workloads: Kennedy served as a regular host of the network's flagship program E! News (five nights per week plus a weekend show) and helped out on Live From the Red Carpet specials, while Sadler filled in on a rotating basis two times per week on E! News in addition to serving as the regular host of E!'s live daytime broadcast Daily Pop as well as duties on Live From E!

News of Sadler's departure caught headlines worldwide, and stars took notice, too. Jennifer Lawrence, Jessica Chastain and Olivia Munn were just a few of the women who spoke out on social media in support of her decision. Because of that, the question surfaced in the days leading up to the Globes as to how actresses would respond on a day that many knew would be dominated by conversations about gender equality and a changing Hollywood culture in the wake of the #MeToo and Time's Up movements.

Shortly before Sunday's red carpet kicked off, Amy Schumer encouraged stars to ask about Sadler when they made it to E!'s hosts. "If you're on the carpet tonight or at home post in support and ask @eentertainment what happened? We thought you would be for pay equality and say #imwithcattsad @iamcattsadler," the comedian wrote on Instagram.

The morning after the show, Amber Tamblyn continued to urge E! to address what happened, posting on Twitter, "We're watching you, @e_entertainment and we don't mean your programming. You need to address pay inequality at your network and the fact that @IAmCattSadler left after finding out her male co-host was making twice as much as she was." She included the #TimesUp hashtag.

E! put the reins of its live coverage in the hands of Seacrest and Rancic, who return for major awards events like the Golden Globes and the Oscars.

Tune in to The Hollywood Reporter and Hollywood Foreign Press Association's official aftershow on Twitter here.