Article Revels that Schiavocampo was Fired for leading Diversity Efforts
A published article June 13, 2020 in The Huffington Post reveals for the first time why leading news correspondent Mara Schiavocampo abruptly stopped appearing on GMA in 2017. According to the report, Schiavocampo was fired in retaliation for leading diversity efforts at ABC News. The 4-time Emmy Award winning journalist has never spoken about her departure but the article reveals that Schiavocampo’s contract was not renewed after she was identified by senior ABC News executive Barbara Fedida as a leader of a group of Black correspondents at ABC asking for modest improvements around diversity and inclusion.
The article reveals a pattern and practice of racist behavior including the explosive claim that she questioned Robin Roberts salary during contract negotiations and is quoted as saying: “it wasn’t as if the network was asking Roberts to ‘pick cotton’”, according to one source who was in the room and witnessed the exchange. Two other sources who were not present but were told about the incident soon afterward confirmed the account to HuffPost.
‘The Black Manifesto’
In more than a dozen interviews, sources who spoke with HuffPost said Fedida, despite overseeing ABC’s diversity and inclusion efforts, appeared to have a clear distaste for the efforts and would often develop animus toward staffers or talent who tried to champion the efforts, including staffers she put in charge of improving diversity and inclusion.
Fedida, according to five sources, has shown little interest in the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ), despite diversity and inclusion being key parts of her role at the network.
Network executives and talent attend NABJ’s annual convention and sit in booths to network and talk to young black journalists for potential recruitment efforts and mentoring. Fedida has rarely appeared at the NABJ convention, which is a huge departure from what her counterparts at other networks do. At NBC News, for example, top talent executives attend the NABJ convention annually and sit in the booth to critique newsreels and offer advice. The NBC News head of talent has only missed two NABJ conventions in 30 years, according to a source familiar with her attendance.
A source told HuffPost that ABC executives dubbed that letter ‘the Black manifesto.’ Fedida used the phrase when talking about the document, according to one source who heard her say it directly.
One situation in which Fedida actively sabotaged diversity efforts at ABC involved her combative relationship with a group of Black journalists who organized to advocate for more inclusivity at the network. Chief among the organizers of the group was Mara Schiavocampo, an ABC correspondent.
The group came together in the summer of 2016. ABC News was preparing to hold a town hall with then-President Barack Obama about race relations. Interviews with U.S. presidents are significant news events, and networks put a great deal of preparation into them. Typically, the interviewer — in this case, the anchor of ABC’s “World News Tonight,” David Muir, who is white — and staff meet regularly to plan out questions.
None of the staffers initially involved in the planning process were Black, according to multiple sources familiar with it, which led Black journalists at ABC News to organize the advocacy group.
The group, according to multiple sources, held conference calls and put together a detailed letter to Goldston. The goals were relatively modest, among them that of having one senior Black producer on every show and interviewing a Black candidate for every job opening.
Somehow, the letter came to the attention of Goldston and Fedida. A source told HuffPost that ABC executives dubbed that letter “the Black manifesto.” Fedida used the phrase when talking about the document, according to one source who heard her say it directly.
What followed was a meeting with Goldston and the group, which multiple sources who attended described as tense. Robin Roberts was directly involved in all the meetings, a rarity for an anchor of her stature.
In a second meeting with Goldston, when Goldston told Roberts that colleagues were pushing back on some of the proposals, Roberts, who was visibly angry, said, “Were they carrying torches and chanting ‘You will not replace us?’” The phrase, which is frequently used by white supremacists, was inspired by Renaud Camus, the white supremacist French philosopher and writer who created the “great replacement” theory that mass migration of Muslims would replace white Europeans.
Back in 2016, Schiavocampo’s involvement as a leader of this group put a target on her back with Fedida. Soon, multiple sources said, Fedida started making disparaging comments about Schiavocampo behind her back.
Then in February 2017, ABC News decided not to renew Schiavocampo’s contract. But Schiavocampo didn’t find out the decision until July 2017. After she was told, she was taken off the air, even though her contract didn’t expire until 2018.
Schiavocampo, through her attorneys, approached ABC News with a legal claim that included an allegation of racial discrimination perpetrated by Fedida.
The network gave Schiavocampo a financial settlement. As part of the deal, Schiavocampo signed a nondisclosure and nondisparagement agreement.
When reached by phone, Schiavocampo declined to comment.
Follow Yashar — or send him a tip — on Twitter: @yashar