Paramount Television President Amy Powell has been fired after making inappropriate racial comments, it was reported Friday.
The movie and TV studio’s chief executive, Jim Gianopulos, told staff Thursday in a memo that several people raised concerns about Powell’s unspecified comments last week, sparking an internal investigation by the company. It was not immediately clear what Powell said that led to her ouster, but a person familiar with the matter said she made racially charged remarks in a meeting attended by multiple people, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Powell strongly denied making inappropriate remarks and is understood to be considering legal action, Daily Variety reported. Paramount declined to comment beyond Gianopulos’s memo.
“There is no truth to the allegation that I made insensitive comments in a professional setting or in any setting,” Powell said in a statement. “The facts will come out and I will be vindicated.”
A source close to the situation said Paramount’s investigation found that Powell made statements about black women being angry for various reasons during a conference call about the “First Wives” series with producer Karen Rosenfelt and a handful of others, Variety reported. The group included an African-American assistant to another Paramount TV executive, who complained to studio leaders about Powell’s comments.
Sources noted that Powell had appeared to have been irritated by a tweet sent June 28 by “First Wives” showrunner Tracy Oliver, who is African-American, criticizing the casting process on the show. Oliver was not a participant on the call.
“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 said in his memo.
Powell, who began her career at CNN, joined Paramount in 2004 after working in interactive marketing at Sony Pictures. She ws named president of the Viacom Inc.-owned Paramount Television in 2013, picked by then-CEO Brad Grey to ramp up the storied Los Angeles studio’ efforts for the small screen.
Under her tenure, the studio’s TV division produced shows such as “13 Reasons Why” for Netflix, “School of Rock” for Viacom’s Nickelodeon network, and “The Alienist” on TNT. Its upcoming shows include “Tom Clancy”s Jack Ryan” on Amazon.
“While it is incredibly difficult to part ways with a valued member of our community, it is imperative that we uphold our values and ensure that all employees feel safe and included in the workplace,” Gianopulos wrote to staff.
“Importantly, I want to take this opportunity to remind everyone of the type of company and culture we’re committed to building at Paramount,” Gianopulos added. “It’s one of inclusion, honesty and accountability where diversity is critical to ensuring that all ideas, backgrounds and perspectives are embraced and respected.”
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