Top ABC News executive Barbara Fedida was placed on leave Saturday to allow the company time to investigate reports that she repeatedly used insensitive, racist and abusive language while addressing staff.
Fedida is ABC’s senior vice president for talent, editorial strategy and business affairs. The ABC website says her wide-ranging responsibilities include “developing and executing ABC News’ strategic vision and planning for the next generation of both on-air and off-air talent,” which also includes hiring and placing ABC anchors and correspondents worldwide.
Fedida reports to New York-based ABC News president James Goldston. Prior to her work at ABC Fedida was vice president of talent and development at CBS, which she joined in 2006. She subsequently returned to ABC News in 2011.
The internal ABC investigation was prompted in part by the Huffington Post, which recorded 34 current and former staffers’ complaints against Fedida in an article published June 13.
These complaints include an instance during contentious contract negotiations where a staffer said they witnessed Fedida tell “Good Morning America” co-anchor Robin Roberts that the network wasn’t asking Roberts to “pick cotton,” in response to Roberts’ request for more money when the contract renewed.
Another complaint from an anonymous staffer said that in speaking about black former ABC news anchor Kendis Gibson, “ABC ‘spends more on toilet paper than we ever would on him.’”
The Huffington Post reports Fedida “has been the subject of more than a dozen human resources complaints and was the subject of a human resources investigation in 2016 that led ABC News to hire an executive coach for her, sources said.” The Huffington Post article went on to note that staffers who knew about this 2016 investigation were “stunned that it did not end in her dismissal.”
The report cites a statement from Fedida provided by her attorney, which reads: “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.”
ABC News confirmed Fedida’s leave of absence and said in an email statement, “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.”
Saturday afternoon, the National Association of Black Journalists called for ABC to conduct “a transparent, external investigation” of the accusations, as well as “thorough review” of the ABC News division under Fedida’s management. The organization is also demanding “immediate redress” for wrong parties, and that ABC appoint an African American to head up its diversity hiring efforts.
14. JUST IN: National Association of Black Journalists is calling on ABC to launch a transparent, external investigation into the allegations in my story. Additionally, they are calling on ABC to waive NDAs "for black employees & other employees of color"https://t.co/t3QifFnUW7 pic.twitter.com/xvnhfDtfCS
— Yashar Ali ? (@yashar) June 13, 2020