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Barbara Fedida, an ABC News executive overseeing talent and business, has been placed on administrative leave while the network investigates insensitive comments she made in the workplace, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed.
The Huffington Post first reported the news, citing 34 anonymous sources that were collected over a period of six months. According to the report, there was an encounter in 2018 between Fedida and Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts that included one of the alleged inappropriate remarks.
Roberts was reportedly attempting to negotiate her contract renewal — the longtime broadcaster had been at ABC since 2005 — and Fedida responded negatively and made a comment to the effect of, it wasn’t as if the network was asking her to “pick cotton,” according to sources.
Fedida has been the subject of “more than a dozen” complaints to the Human Resources department of ABC News, the report details, citing a history of inappropriate and racist comments that amounted to an uncomfortable work environment. In 2016, when these complaints resulted in an investigation into her behavior, an executive coach was apparently hired for her and many staffers expressed surprise that she kept her position at the company.
ABC News said in a statement obtained by THR, “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 provided a statement to The Huffington Post through her attorney, noting, “Throughout my career, I have been a champion for increased diversity in network news. Building a news division where everyone can thrive has been my life’s mission. I am proud of my decades of work of hiring, supporting and promoting talented journalists of color. And, unlike these heartbreaking and incredibly misleading claims about me, that track record is well-documented and undeniable.”
Among the complaints listed in the report, Fedida is said to have referred to women inappropriately in the office and to have displayed little interest in diversity and inclusion at the network, despite overseeing those efforts in her role as senior vp of talent and business.
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