A former producer for E! News alleges that she was fired after she allowed a pre-taped interview that was critical of the network to make it onto the air, reports the New York Times.
Aileen Gram-Moreno was a freelance telecast producer for E!'s live red carpet events. Her lawyer, Katherine Atkinson, told Variety that Gram-Moreno had worked for E! for 12 years in this capacity. She alleges that she was fired after last month's Golden Globes awards when an interview involving host Ryan Seacrest, Reese Witherspoon, and Eva Longoria was aired. In the interview, Longoria voiced support for E's previous anchor, Catt Sadler. Sadler left the network over an unequal pay dispute in December 2017, alleging that her male co-anchor, Jason Kennedy, was making twice her salary.
"We support gender equity and equal pay, and we hope that E! follows that lead with Catt as well. We stand with you, Catt," Longoria told Seacrest.
Actress Debra Messing first spoke out about Sadler's pay dispute on the Golden Globes red carpet to E!'s Giuliana Rancic. "I was so shocked to hear that E! doesn't believe in paying their female co-hosts the same as their male co-hosts," said Messing. "I miss Catt Sadler. We stand with her. And that's something that can change tomorrow. We want people t0 start having this conversation that women are just as valuable as men."
Gram-Moreno alleges that after the Messing interview was aired, she was asked to screen all pre-recorded interviews for additional mentions of Sadler. "They said, if there’s any mention of Catt in the preshow, make sure you flag it," she told the Times. "You’re censoring celebrities; it’s just not a good idea in my humble opinion. But it wasn’t my decision."
She says that she found the queue too large to screen, and the Longoria interview was accidentally aired. According to the Times, Gram-Moreno also alleges that she was originally scheduled to work on three more E! live telecasts, but her shifts were inexplicably canceled after the Golden Globes. "The executive producer said it was because you let the Catt mention get on air," says Gram-Moreno.
In a statement to the Times, E! alleges that Gram-Moreno's freelance contract was terminated for "performance issues" and that she initiated legal proceedings "after her request for a financial settlement was turned down."
E! also states that they did not censor celebrities who were critical of the network and Sadler's alleged salary dispute and that they support the Time's Up initiative. One of Time's Up's main missions is to address gender pay disparities.
E!'s president, Adam Stotsky, also told the Times that "If we were trying to censor [celebrities], which is [Gram-Moreno's] primary thesis here, we certainly wouldn’t have done that," referring to the fact that Messing and Longoria's critical interviews were aired. He says that an additional critical interview with actress Natalie Portman that was not aired for time but was later posted online.
Catt Sadler responded to the reports of alleged celebrity censorship on the red carpet. In a statement she provided to Variety, she said that "It’s disappointing that any network would order the censorship of opinions. “But it’s particularly disturbing in this case because we are at a cultural tipping point where women feel more and more comfortable being vocal about issues like pay equality and sexual misconduct. To shut down those conversations is to stifle progress."
E!'s upcoming Oscars red carpet coverage has been the subject of scrutiny since host Ryan Seacrest was accused of sexual harassment by his former stylist Suzie Hardy. Seacrest has denied the allegations. The network has stood by their host, telling Refinery29 in a statement that the network's outside counsel investigated the claims thoroughly.
Activist and #MeToo founder Tarana Burke criticized the decision to allow Seacrest to host the telecast, telling Variety that "they really shouldn’t send him [to the Oscars]. We shouldn’t have to make those choices of, ‘Do we or don’t we?''"
Variety spoke with celebrity publicists whose clients are members of Time's Up, and they indicated that they may skip speaking with Seacrest on the red carpet at tomorrow's Academy Awards.
Refinery29 has reached out to Gram-Moreno's legal representation, E! News, Seacrest, and Time's Up for comment and will update this story accordingly.
This is a breaking news story. It has been updated throughout with new information as it becomes available.
Read These Stories Next: