Paramount TV chief fired over inappropriate comments
The president of Paramount Corporation's TV unit has been fired for what is being called "comments inconsistent with Viacom's values." Paramount TV is a subsidiary of media conglomerate Viacom.
Amy Powell was Paramount's golden girl, a rising star who helped create several hit TV shows when she came on board in 2013. But on a studio notes call with executives and talent for the show The First Wives Club, Powell apparently made what was interpreted as racially insensitive generalizations about black women. Several complaints from those in on the call led to her firing.
The news was announced Thursday via an internal memo from Paramount CEO Jim Gianopulos in which he outlined "multiple individuals" who raised "concerns around comments" made by the executive in a "professional setting, which they believed were inconsistent" with Viacom's values. According to sources, the comments included racially charged language. Sources say the inciting incident occurred during a studio notes call for Paramount Network's First Wives Club reboot, which is being penned by Girls Trip co-writer Tracy Oliver and will feature a predominantly black cast.
Powell, who is said to have been a favorite of Viacom CEO Bob Bakish, allegedly made generalizations about black women that struck some on the call as offensive. A complaint was filed to human resources, who with the legal department, investigated the claims and those involved on the notes call. Sources say Paramount considered discipline but decided to to [sic] fire Powell after she denied the allegations.
"Having spent the past several days conducting a thorough investigation into this matter and speaking to those who were present, our Human Resources and Legal teams came to the same conclusion, and we have made the decision to terminate Amy's employment, effective immediately," Gianopulos wrote.
We don't have any idea what Powell said. We don't know who registered a complaint about her choice of words or whether they could be construed by a reasonable person as insensitive or racially charged.
But why should anyone be reasonable in this day and age?
Hours after Gianopulos' memo to staff, Powell denied the allegations in a statement sent by her personal PR: "There is no truth to the allegation that I made insensitive comments in a professional setting – or in any setting," she said. "The facts will come out and I will be vindicated." Sources say Powell is considering taking legal action against the studio.
There may be more to this story than insensitive comments. It may be that there is a behind-the-scenes power struggle where some very important people wanted Powell out and saw an opportunity when a couple of people complained about something she may have said.
Powell's strong denial suggests that those who might have been offended by her remarks were looking to be offended. Apparently, not everyone was offended enough to complain to human resources, suggesting there was a racial perspective in interpreting her remarks.
Is making "generalizations" about race a firing offense? If so, the almost universal generalization by many blacks that almost all whites are racist should lead to a slew of firings. But, as we all know, the world doesn't work that way. Generalizing about race or stereotyping people based on race is a transgression that only one race must pay for.
I suspect that if details of the incident ever come to light, Powell's firing will become even more incomprehensible than it is today.