October 27, 2020

ABC Executive Barbara Fedida Out Over ‘Racially Insensitive’ Remarks

The Walt Disney Company said in an internal memo on Monday that it had cut ties with a top ABC News executive after an investigation backed complaints that she had made racist remarks in the workplace.

The executive, Barbara Fedida, 52, had worked at ABC for most of her roughly two-decade career, save for a five-year stint as the head of talent development at CBS News from 2006 to 2011. As the senior vice president of talent relations and business affairs at ABC News, she had a hand in selecting on-air talent for programs like “Good Morning America,” “ABC World News Tonight With David Muir” and “Nightline.”

Last month HuffPost reported that Ms. Fedida had made insensitive statements, including racist comments, at work. During a salary negotiation with the “Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts, who is Black, Ms. Fedida said the company was not asking her to “pick cotton,” according to the article.

Disney, the owner of ABC, put Ms. Fedida on administrative leave soon after the article was published and hired the law firm Proskauer Rose to conduct an investigation. On Monday, Peter Rice, the chairman of Walt Disney Television, informed the staff of her departure in a memo that was reviewed by The New York Times.

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

Mr. Rice added that the law firm’s investigation had found “no basis” for claims in the HuffPost article that Ms. Fedida’s behavior had led to more than a dozen human resources complaints and millions of dollars in confidential settlements.

A representative for Ms. Fedida declined to comment. She denied the accusations when they surfaced in June, calling them “incredibly misleading.” She also said she had championed diversity during her tenure.

Ms. Fedida is departing as civil rights protests have prompted employees in the media industry to speak out on workplace discrimination. In recent weeks, as many news organizations have held staffwide discussions on racism and related issues, high-level journalists and executives have left companies including The Times, Condé Nast and Fox News.

In his memo to the Disney staff, Mr. Rice also said the company would change the role formerly held by Ms. Fedida, so that “business affairs will be a separate function from talent relations and recruitment, each with its own leader.”