A veteran producer of E!’s red-carpet shows said she was fired for allowing an interview critical of the cable channel to make it to air.
In an interview at the Golden Globe Awards last month, actress Eva Longoria criticized the network’s treatment of longtime host Catt Sadler. Producer Aileen Gram-Moreno claimed that she was fired for allowing the pre-recorded interview to make it into the live feed of E!’s red carpet telecast. Gram-Moreno filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Friday, the first step toward a lawsuit against the cable channel.
The New York Times first reported on the complaint. Gram-Moreno and her attorney confirmed the paper’s account to Variety.
E! executive Adam Stotsky told the Times that Gram-Moreno was let go for a “pattern of poor performance,” and the network pointed out that Gram-Moreno was a freelancer — thus technically not fired. Stotsky also denied that the network attempted to censor any interviews.
Gram-Moreno’s attorney Katherine Atkinson fired back at those claims, telling Variety, “In the 12 years Aileen has been working on red carpet shows for E! they never once raised a performance issue. That is a convenient excuse for covering up attempts to silence women speaking out. Employers often attack women speaking out about discrimination — so I am disappointed in E! but not surprised.”
Atkinson added, “E! can’t have it both ways. They support their position that they were not censoring references to Catt Sadler by pointing to the Eva Longoria interview. But they fired my client for failing to censor that very interview. If you attempt to censor, and then fire the person for not catching the speech you intended to censor for letting it go through, you can’t then claim that you aren’t so bad after all because you ‘let’ it air. Their argument defies logic.”
Prior to January’s Golden Globes, Sadler left E! after learning that she made a significantly lower salary than her male counterpart Jason Kennedy. In an interview with Ryan Seacrest at the Globes, Longoria said, “We support gender equity and equal pay, and we hope that E! follows that lead with Catt as well. We stand with you, Catt.”
Gram-Moreno, a 12-year veteran of red carpet telecasts at E!, said that after actress Debra Messing had slammed the network’s treatment of Sadler in an earlier interview, she was told to screen all prerecorded interviews for mention of the former host. But, she claimed, the number of prerecorded interviews was much higher than normal, as producers worried that Sadler’s name would continue to come up. The outsize workload, she said, made it impossible to thoroughly screen all the interviews.
Gram-Moreno claimed that she was scheduled to work on three subsequent awards shows for E!, and was denied when she asked to be paid for the three canceled jobs. She said that E! told her she would be contacted shortly with additional non-red-carpet assignments, but then never reached out to her again.
Gram-Moreno’s complaint comes as Seacrest, the lead red-carpet anchor for E!, faces sexual harassment allegations first reported Monday by Variety. E! has said Seacrest will anchor Sunday’s Academy Awards red-carpet telecast. Publicists for several top talents slated to attend Sunday’s Oscars told Variety that stars affiliated with ABC owner Disney — Seacrest hosts “American Idol” and “Live With Kelly & Ryan” for ABC — and E! owner NBCUniversal are being pressured to do interviews with Seacrest on the red carpet. Reps for stars associated with the Time’s Up movement, however, said that their clients will likely skip Seacrest and go to E!’s “second camera,” where co-host Giuliana Rancic will be conducting interviews.
But two publicists that Variety spoke with said that they would not hesitate to allow their clients to be interviewed by Seacrest, noting that an E! investigation did not support allegations made against him.