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ABC News Exec Placed On Leave After Allegedly Telling Robin Roberts She's Not Being Asked To 'Pick Cotton'

ABC News Exec Placed On Leave After Allegedly Telling Robin Roberts She's Not Being Asked To 'Pick Cotton'
Michael Tran/FilmMagic via Getty Images

ABC News senior executive Barbara Fedida has been placed on administrative leave after multiple sources claimed she made racist remarks about "Good Morning America" co-host Robin Roberts during a contract negotiation meeting.

The Huffington Post reported that in 2018 Fedida made the comments during a meeting which included Roberts and other colleagues. At some point in that meeting, there was a discussion of ongoing negotiations with Roberts.

Those ongoing negotiations were evidently stilted. Roberts, who has co-anchored "Good Morning America" since 2005, wanted higher pay than Fedida was willing to give.

According to one ABC staffer present at the meeting—who spoke with the Huffington Post—Fedida asked what more Roberts could want. She continued by saying it wasn't like the network was asking Roberts to "pick cotton."

Two other sources—who were not at the meeting but heard about the exchange immediately afterward—confirmed their knowledge of the 2018 exchange.

This was not an isolated incident for Fedida, who has remained at her high post throughout the two years since making the racist comments.

One ABC staffer put it bluntly:

"To say that she's an abusive figure is an understatement."

The same sources reported Fedida was the subject of over a dozen human resources complaints. A human resources investigation in 2016 resulted in Fedida receiving an executive coach.

The sources went on to claim that multiple settlements with former staff and talent cost the network millions over the years.

In response to TheHuffington Post story, ABC News made the following statement:

"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."

Fedida also responded to the allegations by way of a statement from her attorney.

She painted a glowing picture of a career defined by ethical conduct:

"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."

Twitter, of course, had anger for Fedida.

But people also took aim at the larger ABC News network.

When the story was picked up by other outlets, the outrage came pouring in from all directions.

And so, as it so often goes, the internet community's verdict came with remarkable speed, far outpacing the formal investigation at the heart of the matter.

It may be some time before we know what comes Fedida's way after that long process—if we ever find out at all.