A powerful network news executive has suddenly found herself powerless and out of a job because of racist comments she made in the workplace to and about her Black colleagues. It was the latest in a recent series of racially motivated shakeups in the media world following nationwide protests against racism.
The Los Angeles Times reported that Barbara Fedida, who served as the business affairs chief for ABC News, was fired on Monday in part because of what she said about Robin Roberts of “Good Morning America.” But Fedida also targeted at least two other Black women who are also on-air talents, using racist terms in allegations that were first brought to light in a report by the HuffPost last month.
The Walt Disney Co., which owns ABC News, announced Fedida’s firing in an email to the company on Monday.
“The investigation substantiated that Ms. Fedida did make some of the unacceptable racially insensitive comments attributed to her,” Walt Disney Television Chairman Peter Rice wrote in part. “It also substantiated that Ms. Fedida managed in a rough manner and, on occasion, used crass and inappropriate language.”
Rice’s email was too kind.
One of those “racially insensitive comments” a line about picking cotton, a racist reference to Black people if there ever was one. While negotiating a contract renewal with Roberts, a respected anchor who has worked for the Walt Disney Co. for more than 30 years, Fedida reportedly felt Roberts was getting too greedy in her requests.
“Fedida then asked what more Roberts could want and said it wasn’t as if the network was asking Roberts to ‘pick cotton,'” the Huff Post quotes a source as saying.
But wait, there’s more.
“Fedida also allegedly used the term ‘low rent’ to describe Sunny Hostin, a Black co-host on ‘The View,'” the L.A. Times reported. “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 media industry has been vigilant about trying to rid its ranks of the type of systemic racism that was exposed by ensuring protests following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on Memorial Day. Vulture listed at least 13 news organizations — including Complex and Okayplayer — that it said were “reckoning with abuse of power.”
This is America.