E!’s potential Oscar red carpet woes don’t seem to be rolling up anytime soon. With reports that some celebrity publicists might steer their clients away from awkward encounters with E! host Ryan Seacrest, a female producer now has filed a complaint against E! with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
In story reported exclusively by The New York Times today, producer Aileen Gram-Moreno says she was fired by E! for letting that clip of Eva Longoria criticizing E! air during the channel’s Golden Globes red carpet coverage. Gram-Moreno, according to The Times, filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission yesterday, alleging that her termination was unfair and that she was replaced by a man.
The clip in question showed Longoria speaking in support of Catt Sadler, the former E! News co-host who resigned from the channel after learning she was paid significantly less than her male co-host. Longoria’s statement followed Debra Messing’s public criticism of the channel, and Gram-Moreno told The Times that E! execs had warned producers to flag any similar comments.
“They said, if there’s any mention of Catt in the preshow, make sure you flag it,” Gram-Moreno told The Times. “You’re censoring celebrities; it’s just not a good idea in my humble opinion. But it wasn’t my decision.”
In a statement, an E! spokesperson said, “For the past decade Aileen Gram Moreno was a freelancer who worked an average of 20 days per year solely for our red carpet coverage. After the Golden Globes she was asked not to return due to job performance issues. Following an attempt to force E! to pay for her silence Ms. Moreno is now spreading misleading and inaccurate information.”
In her EEOC filing, according to The Times, Gram-Moreno said that “the number of prerecorded interviews made it all but impossible to fully vet every one” and that she “had listened to most but not all of the clip with Ms. Longoria.”
Gram-Moreno later texted an apology to her executive producer, “who replied that it probably could not have been avoided.” Five days later, Gram-Moreno was fired from all of E!’s upcoming shows, including the Screen Actors Guild Awards, the Grammys and the Oscars. “The executive producer said it was because you let the Catt mention get on air,” Gram-Moreno told The Times.
In a Times interview Thursday, Adam Stotsky, president of E! Entertainment, denied any effort to censor celebrities on the carpet, and he pointed out that the clips with Longoria and Messing are available for viewing on E!’s website. “If we were trying to censor, which is (Gram-Moreno’s) primary thesis here, we certainly wouldn’t have done that,” he said.
Stotsky said that Gram-Moreno’s job was to “screen all of the assets completely and obviously she failed to do that” and that E!’s decision not to use her freelance services on other awards shows was due to a “pattern of poor performance.”
But Gram-Moreno’s lawyer, Katherine Atkinson, of Wilkenfeld, Herendeen & Atkinson, told The Times that E! had never complained about Gram-Moreno’s performance in 12 years, that she had received a performance-based raise five years ago, and that the male producer who replaced her was given a “higher title.”
Sources close to the situation say Gram-Moreno made several attempts at a seven figure settlement, which E! refused to pay. Atkinson told The Times that Gram-Moreno requested payment for the shows she’d been booked for, and E!’s decision to decline led the producer to take legal action.