A top ABC News executive is on administrative leave after reported claims of racist and sexist remarks surfaced.
A report from Huffington Post's Yashar Ali lays out damning accusations of Barbara Fedida, head of ABC News talent, and her treatment of black journalists at the network.
In 2018, during a contentious meeting about renewing “Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts's contract, Fedida reportedly "asked what more Roberts could want and said it wasn’t as if the network was asking Roberts to 'pick cotton.'"
Fedida also reportedly referred to "The View" co-host Sunny Hostin as "low rent."
Another source told Ali about a comment Fedida said about then-ABC News journalist Kendis Gibson, a black anchor, that ABC “spends more on toilet paper than we ever would on him."
According to the report, Fedida would also refer to women as "c---s" openly in the office.
Ali wrote that he had spoken with "34 sources over the course of six months" comprised of current and former ABC News staff.
"To say that she’s an abusive figure is an understatement,” a former ABC News staffer told the Huffington Post.
In a statement to Fox News, ABC News 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 began working at ABC News back in 1989 as a staffer for anchor Peter Jennings and had risen in the ranks among executives. After leaving the Disney-owned network in 2005 for an executive position at CBS News, Fedida returned to ABC News in 2011.
"Normally, a talent executive in a network news division is responsible for finding new talent, and developing and working with the network’s current talent. Fedida does all that at ABC News, but her role and influence go far beyond that. She is essentially a deputy to Goldston and has been tasked with being an enforcer and dealing with all of the difficult issues he doesn’t want to handle," Ali wrote, referring to ABC News president James Goldston.
Fedida was reportedly dismissive of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) despite her role of elevating diversity at the network. Unlike most network executives, she would skip the organization's annual convention.
A letter from NABJ was reportedly sent to Goldston laying out ambitions to increase diversity, including having one senior black producer on every program and interviewing black candidates for all job openings.
However, Fedida, along with other executives, reportedly referred to the letter as a "black manifesto."
The NABJ on Saturday issued a statement calling 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 [Yashar Ali's] report, while conducting a thorough review of ABC News Exec Barbara Fedida and the talent dept [sic]."
The NABJ also called on ABC News to "waive its confidentiality agreements with any Black employees and other employees of color, and permit prior and current employees to speak on the record absent of reprisals if they choose to do so."
According to Ali, "dozens" of HR complaints were made against Fedida over the years and her conduct "has led to millions in confidential settlements including at least one settlement involving allegations of racial discrimination."
"For years, Fedida's conduct, not just when it comes to race & racism, has been widely discussed in the media business. People have wondered how she has managed to keep her job. She and others have managed to kill stories about her conduct in the past," Ali noted.