Frank Micelotta/PictureGroup/Sipa USA

Paramount Television Chief Fired For Racially Insensitive Remarks

July 20, 2018 - 6:24 pm

LOS ANGELES (WCBS 880/AP) -- Viacom’s Paramount has fired its television chief for allegedly making racially insensitive remarks.

Paramount Pictures chief executive officer Jim Gianopulos wrote in a memo Thursday that Amy Powell had been fired for making comments that were "inconsistent with company values."

Bloomberg Entertainment Reporter Lucas Shaw explained the allegations.

“Amy Powell, who had worked at Paramount for more than a decade – one of the most important executives at this very storied Hollywood studio – was on a notes call for a TV show – a reboot of ‘The First Wives Club,’ if you remember that, and she was discussing black women and black children and said things that were seen as particularly insensitive – one would probably say racist,” he said.

The memo said numerous employees complained about Powell's behavior, and the decision to fire her was made in agreement with the company's legal and human resources departments.

Shaw noted that Powell was fired fairly quickly, unlike some other cases.

“There was another incident in Hollywood recently where the head spokesperson for Netflix was fired for… using a racist term twice. You know, he used those words in February, and he was not fired until just a couple of weeks ago,” Lucas told WCBS 880’s Joe Avellar. “So it sort of depends on how quickly people in the company complain, and then how sensitive the leader is.”

Papa John’s pizza founder John Schnatter faced heat this month and went on to resign after a Forbes report that he used the N-word during a media training conference call in May. When asked how he would distance himself from racist groups, Schnatter reportedly complained that Colonel Sanders never faced a backlash for using the word.

Shaw weighed in on what could possess high-powered executives, of all people, to say such things.

“I think people sometimes are just careless with words. It’s probably also symptomatic of a culture in which, for the most part, top executives are white, often male. They are raised in a certain background. They may not have exposure to or may not have developed appropriate sensitivity or know the right lexicon. But look, people have been saying stupid, racist, and insensitive things for time immemorial and probably will continue to do so,” he said.

A message sent to Powell was not immediately returned. She joined Paramount in 2004 and became president of its television division five years ago.

Under her leadership, Paramount supplied shows including "13 Reasons Why" and "The Alienist" to cable and streaming outlets.

(© 2018 WCBS 880. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)