Amy Powell, who served as President of Paramount TV for five years, has been fired for “racially insensitive” comments she made during a conference call. Although not many details are available at this time, Deadline reports that the comment that resulted in Powell’s termination was made during a conference call about a Paramount Network series, First Wives Club, a reboot of the 1996 comedy movie written by African-American writer Tracy Oliver and starring a mostly African-American cast. On June 28, Oliver tweeted this, which is not believed to be about Powell.
“Had a moment today that REALLY pointed out why we need representation across the board. A black female voice doesn’t matter if the decision makers don’t understand nor even want to understand what you’re saying. Where’s the #metoo for race s**t out here?”
Oliver was not in attendance at the meeting according to Variety, but it’s believed that the “racially insensitive” comment was in response to this tweet and involved a negative stereotype about black women. Paramount had initially intended to simply reprimand Powell for her comment, but when they did, she denied the charges and so was fired. She worked at Paramount for 14 years.
Paramount CEO Jim Gianopulos said in an internal memo Thursday that more than one person had expressed concern over Powell’s comment especially because it was made in a “professional setting.” They and Gianopulos described the comment as “inconsistent” with Viacom’s values. The CEO described how the network had reached their decision.
“Having spent the last 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 also affirmed in his memo that Paramount’s culture is “one of inclusion, honesty, and accountability” that values diversity.
Powell publicly denied the charges within hours.
“There is no truth to the allegation that I made insensitive comments in a professional setting – or in any setting. The facts will come out and I will be vindicated.”
She is also said to be considering taking legal action against Paramount.
A search for Powell’s replacement will begin immediately. In the meantime, The Wrap reports that Paramount COO Andrew Gumpert will step in with operational support for the television division of the network. Creative input will be provided by Paramount Animation’s Mireille Soria, Paramount Players’ Brian Robbins, and Paramount Motion Picture Group’s Wyck Godfrey.
Powell was chosen by Brad Grey to take Paramount back into television series production in 2013. For two years prior to this move, she had run the studio’s digital operations and InSurge low-budget movie division. Under Powell’s leadership shows including 13 Reasons Why, A Series of Unfortunate Events, The Alienist, The Condor, and the upcoming Jack Ryan on Amazon and Catch-22 on Hulu were launched. She was widely well-regarded and rumored for promotion to more high-profile positions right up to her termination.