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In the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, there was a long overdue reckoning on race and racism in America.
But while hundreds of thousands of people were in the streets protesting police brutality and millions more were engaged in conversations at home and work about racism, ABC News was telling Sunny Hostin, the Black and Puerto Rican co-host of “The View” and a senior correspondent and legal analyst for ABC News, that it wanted her to edit out portions of her forthcoming memoir that executives felt painted the network in a bad light.
This is according to the foreword in Hostin’s new memoir, “I Am These Truths: A Memoir of Identity, Justice, and Living Between Worlds,” which is set to be published by HarperCollins on Sept. 22.
In a copy of the book I obtained from a source, Hostin says of ABC’s request: “Deleting those passages didn’t feel right to me—they were all true, and they were some of the battle scars of my experience.” (Hostin doesn’t detail what exactly ABC News asked her to delete.)
“My television agent and my book agent emailed me to express confusion that a news organization would try to censor a Puerto Rican, African American woman’s story while they were covering global demonstrations demanding racial equity.”
Hostin says that after her attorneys intervened, ABC News relented and didn’t fight her on the passages. “I didn’t want to believe that racism played a part in their revision requests—we were just dotting some i’s and crossing some t’s, right? Then, on Friday, June 12th, I got a text from a reporter.”
That reporter was me. I texted Hostin to let her know that in a story I was publishing the next day, I would be referencing racist comments about Hostin, Robin Roberts and others that were allegedly made by Barbara Fedida, a senior ABC News executive and one of the most powerful women in media.
My story also detailed alleged efforts by Fedida to undermine those who made racial equality a priority, Hostin was one of those people who, according to my sources, advocated for more inclusion and diversity at ABC News. Multiple sources told me that Fedida had referred to Hostin as “low rent,” and my sources made it clear to me that they felt that Fedida made the comment with racist overtones.
I don’t have a relationship with Hostin—she politely thanked me for giving her a heads up and didn’t say much else—so outside of her public comments, I never knew how she felt about my reporting.
In her memoir, Hostin writes about how she processed what Fedida allegedly said about her: “I was floored. I felt incredibly sad, but I also felt relief. Many of the experiences I’ve had at ABC, including several described in these pages that standards and practices at first asked me to delete—well, if the allegations were true, all of the dots were connected. My suspicions that I was treated worse than my white colleagues—the fears that I tried to talk myself out of many times—maybe they were true. Had my employer, my home away from home, devalued, dismissed, and underpaid me because of my race? I had just read emails from them directing me to erase evidence of such treatment from my story. And if I'm being honest, I wasn't even angry. I was deeply, profoundly shaken and saddened.”
Thirty-eight days after I texted Hostin and 37 days after my story was published, Fedida was fired by ABC News.
In a memo sent to ABC News employees that I obtained, The Walt Disney Company (the parent company of ABC) said that its “investigation substantiated that Ms. Fedida did make some of the unacceptable racially insensitive comments attributed to her. It also substantiated that Ms. Fedida managed in a rough manner and, on occasion, used crass and inappropriate language.”