“Good Morning America” weekend anchors expressed solidarity with fellow anchor Robin Roberts while addressing the controversy that has rocked ABC News over the weekend, resulting in the administrative leave of its top executive Barbara Fedida.
“GMA” co-anchors Dan Harris, Eva Pilgrim and Whit Johnson showed their support for Roberts, who was reportedly the subject of racist remarks by Fedida, the senior vice president of ABC News talent.
“We here at the desk also want to make something clear, which is that we express our respect and our affection for our friend and our colleague Robin Roberts,” Harris told viewers on Sunday morning.
The anchors had read statements from ABC News and from Fedida through her attorney.
“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,” ABC News said, which echoed the statement given to Fox News on Saturday.
Fedida said, “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.”
VIDEO: This morning, @ABC News issued an on-air comment regarding a report in the @HuffPost from @yashar, which alleged executive Barbara Fedida had a history of making racially charged and abusive comments towards staff. Link to that report: https://t.co/ytm0LbQxyN pic.twitter.com/9EfJdrdDt2
— Nicholas Fondacaro (@NickFondacaro) June 14, 2020
A report from Huffington Post’s Yashar Ali lays out damning accusations of Fedida 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.
Fedida began working at ABC News back in 1989 as a staffer for anchor Peter Jennings and had risen in the ranks. 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 [ABC News President James] 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.
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.”
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].”
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.