ABC News has put a top executive on administrative leave after a HuffPost investigation alleged she had a pattern of making insensitive and racist remarks.
Following publication of the story Saturday morning, ABC announced that Barbara Fedida, senior vice president of talent, editorial strategy and business affairs for the network, has been placed on leave while the claims are investigated.
Among other duties, Fedida oversaw newsroom inclusion and was responsible for hiring and developing network anchors and correspondents. According to Yashar Ali’s report in HuffPost, Fedida’s alleged misconduct has led the network to spend millions of dollars in confidential settlements with former talent and staff. That includes at least one settlement related to allegations of racial discrimination, Ali reported.
A spokesperson for 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.”
The National Association Of Black Journalists also put out a statement, saying the organization is “appalled” by the allegations. They are calling on the network to conduct an external investigation and “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.”
“This external investigation by ABC News should be transparent, and all findings must be published and broadcast,” the NABJ said. “This is appropriate because Fedida was no second-tier executive. This top ABC News executive wielded arguably the most power at the network in determining the fates of Black employees in terms of hiring and contracts. The careers of many at ABC News, as well as their future advancement, was literally in her hands.”
They also are calling for a meeting with top leadership of ABC News and its parent company, The Walt Disney Co.
Ali wrote that he based his story on interviews with 34 sources over six months. His story reported on one instance in 2018, when Fedida was sitting with colleagues discussing contract negotiations with Good Morning America co-anchor Robin Roberts, and “then asked what more Roberts could want and said it wasn’t as if the network was asking Roberts to ‘pick cotton.'” Ali cited one unnamed source who was in the room and two others who were not present but told about it soon after.
In a statement, her attorney gave to HuffPost, 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.”
HuffPost, citing unnamed sources, reported that Fedida was the subject of more than a dozen Human Resources complaints and a Human Resources investigation in 2016 that led the network to hire an executive coach for her.
Fedida reported to ABC News president James Goldston and also worked under Goldston’s predecessor, Ben Sherwood. She has been with the network since 2011, having previously worked as vice president of talent and development for CBS News.
Anita Bennett contributed to this report.