Paramount TV president fired over 'racially charged' comments she made in a meeting
The head of Paramount Pictures television has been fired after allegedly making controversial comments in a meeting that included "racially charged" language".
Amy Powell, who has been TV president of the entertainment company since 2013, was dismissed after an internal investigation into her comments was prompted by a series of complaints.
Her dismissal was announced by Paramount CEO Jim Gianopulos in a memo obtained and published by The Hollywood Reporter.
In it, Gianopulos wrote that "multiple individuals" had protested over comments that Powell made in a "professional setting", adding that an investigation by the company's HR and legal departments had concluded that what she said was "inconsistent with our company's values," and serious enough to spur an immediate termination.
"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. "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."
Although his statement didn't directly reference the exact content of the conversation, sources have reportedly told The Hollywood Reporter that the remarks in question were made in a conference call designed to discuss a comedy series in which most actors were black.
"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," wrote Kim Masters and Lesley Goldberg for the American digital and print magazine. "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."
The former head has strongly denied all allegations of inappropriate behaviour and is said to be considering legal action. "There is no truth to the allegation that I made insensitive comments in a professional setting — or in any setting," she claimed in a statement. "The facts will come out and I will be vindicated." Paramount Pictures refused to comment beyond Gianopulos’ memo.
Powell first took the reigns as the new head of Paramount Television in 2013, a move that cemented her status as one of the top executives at the Californian studio. According to reports, she made a name for herself in Hollywood with her embrace of innovative marketing tactics.
"Brad [Grey] approached me about this idea of creating a flexible and innovative TV studio that is kind of like a start-up," she said at the time. "We can really do something different and not replicate a model that is established. It's like what we've been doing at Insurge in terms of finding new voices and new talent and what we're doing on the digital content side finding new stories and new ways of distributing."