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Barbara Fedida will leave ABC News after investigation into racist comments

ABC News executive Barbara Fedida at Variety's Salute to Service presented by History Channel in New York on Nov. 6.
(Clint Spaulding / Variety)

Longtime ABC News business affairs chief Barbara Fedida is leaving the division following an internal investigation into racist remarks made about on-air talent, including “Good Morning America” star Robin Roberts.

Parent company Walt Disney Co. announced Fedida’s departure Monday in a memo to employees from Walt Disney Television Chairman Peter Rice, which was obtained by The Times.

“The investigation substantiated that Ms. Fedida did make some of the unacceptable racially insensitive comments attributed to her,” Rice said. “It also substantiated that Ms. Fedida managed in a rough manner and, on occasion, used crass and inappropriate language.”

Rice also said “the investigation found no basis for the claims that Ms. Fedida was the subject of dozens of HR complaints and that ABC News spent millions of dollars in confidential settlements related to Ms. Fedida, as alleged in some press accounts.”

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Fedida has been on administrative leave since June 13 after publication of a HuffPost report that recounted a discussion about the contract of “Good Morning America” co-host Roberts in which the executive allegedly said the network was not asking Roberts to “pick cotton.”

Fedida also allegedly used the term “low rent” to describe Sunny Hostin, a Black co-host on “The View.” In discussing the value to the network of former Black correspondent Kendis Gibson, she allegedly said ABC News would spend more money on toilet paper.

The HuffPost story also said there have been settlements with former ABC News employees who complained about Fedida’s behavior.

From left, Michael Strahan, Robin Roberts and George Stephanopoulos on the set of "Good Morning America," in 2018.
(Paula Lobo / Associated Press)
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Fedida has been a key executive in the ranks at ABC News since 2011, giving strong support to the division’s president James Goldston and his predecessor Ben Sherwood. She started at the network in 1989 as a production assistant and had a five-year tenure as the head of talent development for CBS News from 2006-11.

The news executive recruited and helped develop much of the on-air talent that appears on “Good Morning America” and “ABC World News Tonight with David Muir,” which since the coronavirus outbreak has been the most-watched program on television.

She also helped revamp the daytime talk program “The View,” which in recent years has become a must-stop for politicians on the campaign trail. While ABC News does not have the clout of a 24-hour news network, it has been turning a decent profit for the company in recent years.

"The View" co-host Sunny Hostin, second from right, was upset over Fedida allegedly calling her "low rent."

“The View” co-host Sunny Hostin, second from right, was allegedly called “low rent” by Barbara Fedida.
(Walt Disney Television)
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Fedida was also known as a tough negotiator when it came to making deals with on-air talent. While she had a reputation in the TV news industry for being blunt, the alleged racist comments reported by HuffPost came as a surprise to many of her long-time colleagues at the network.

The ouster adds her to the list of media executives who have lost their jobs after instances of racist or insensitive behavior as the country goes through reckoning on race relations following the May 25 death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man who was killed in police custody in Minneapolis.

Those discussions have already led to changes in several media organizations where management was found to be unresponsive to concerns about diversity and fair treatment in the workplace.


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