Bonnie Hammer Talks Prejudice and Progress at UJA-Federation Fete

Bonnie Hammer added another first to her long career on Tuesday night as she was feted with the Steven J. Ross Humanitarian Award from the UJA-Federation of New York.

Hammer, chairman of NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment, is the first female exec to receive the kudo, named for the late leader of Time Warner, in the 19-year history of the award from the Jewish service org that supports a range of charities and causes.

And Hammer undoubtedly was the first recipient to eschew the podium while delivering a heartfelt speech from the stage that recalled her bat mitzvah — she was the first girl allowed to experience that rite of passage at her temple in Queens — and her first real brush with anti-Semitism.

The latter came when she was a junior in college and spent a year studying in a foreign land — Lawrence, Kan. A professor there displayed naked prejudice after he realized she was a Jew.

“I went from an A average to flunking the class,” she said. The jarring experience taught her that “prejudice and discrimination based on our differences is an unfortunate fact of life.” (As a footnote she added that the professor was fired two years later after more incidents of bigotry.)

For more than a decade Hammer has championed the “Erase the Hate” public service campaign at USA Network, and the initiative is rolling out to other NBCU cablers. The goal is to tackle “all the -isms that surround and divide us,” she said, on the theory that “we are not born knowing how to hate, we are taught how to hate.”

Hammer saluted UJA-Federation for its broad-based efforts to support inclusion in many forms. She cited the org’s support for a startup LGBT advocacy group, Mosaic, started by a mother in Westchester County who was moved by her son’s struggle to be accepted as gay.

The dinner at the UJA-Federation’s Park Avenue headquarters brought out a strong turnout of TV and business leaders including CNN’s Jeff Zucker, GE’s Jeffrey Immelt, Tribune’s Peter Liguori, Conde Nast Entertainment’s Dawn Ostroff and NBCU’s top brass including Steve Burke, Ron Meyer, Ted Harbert, Linda Yaccarino, Pat Fili-Krushel, Frances Berwick, Chris McCumber, Dave Howe and Adam Stotsky and a host of NBCU talent. Elizabeth Hurley, star of E!’s drama series“Royals,” intro’d Hammer as someone who she thought might be “super-scary,” given her lofty exec position, but turned out to be “really good company.”

Mark Feuerstein of USA’s “Royal Pains” and Meghan Markle of USA’s “Suits” emceed the dinner. Feuerstein charmed the crowd with an energetic rap in Hebrew and by quickly teaching his gentile co-host the HaMotzi blessing for bread.

But it was actor Christian Slater, who stars in USA’s upcoming drama “Mr. Robert,” who impressed the most with his quick thinking during the three-song performance by Sara Bareilles. When Bareilles had trouble with a loose foot pedal under her piano, Slater jumped up on stage, dove under the piano and held it in place until a roll of duck tape arrived.

“People always ask me about things that happen on stage,” Bareilles said. “Now I have the best story to tell.”

(Pictured: Bonnie Hammer and Elizabeth Hurley)

More TV

  • Ariana Grande Olivia Munn Michael Che

    Celebrities vs. Critics: Why This Battle Has No Winners (Column)

    When actor Olivia Munn tweeted a “short essay on…ugly behaviors” late Wednesday night, she insisted that a blog had been unfairly maligning her for years. She wrote that she wanted to confront the idea that baseless critiques, particularly those aimed at women, are never okay no matter how famous the target may be. On the [...]

  • ‘Peaky Blinders’ Virtual Reality Game in

    ‘Peaky Blinders’ Virtual Reality Game Will Pitch Players Into the Action

    “Peaky Blinders” fans will be able to join the gang – virtually – in a new VR game that will allow players to interact with characters from the hit series. Start-up immersive studio Maze Theory teamed with the show’s producers and is making the game, which will launch in 2020. Artificial intelligence technology means characters [...]

  • TV News Roundup: HBO's 'Deadwood: The

    TV News Roundup: HBO Releases 'Deadwood: The Movie' Trailer

    In today’s TV news roundup, HBO released the trailer for the “Deadwood” film, and CNN announced a premiere date for “Apollo 11.”  DATES The documentary “Apollo 11” from director/producer Todd Douglas Miller will premiere on CNN Sunday, June 23 at 9 p.m. Using only archival sources, the film captures NASA’s 1969 Apollo 11 mission. FIRST [...]

  • shannon ryan

    Shannon Ryan Joins Disney TV, ABC as Marketing Chief

    Former Fox Television chief marketing officer Shannon Ryan has been tapped as the new president of marketing for ABC Entertainment and Disney Television Studios. The announcement was made by Karey Burke, president of ABC Entertainment, and Craig Hunegs, president of Disney Television Studios, to whom she will report. Rumours had been circling for a while [...]

  • Dan Lin's Rideback, MRC Announce Writers

    Dan Lin's Rideback, MRC Announce First Class of Writers and Mentors for TV Incubator

    Rideback, Dan Lin’s production company, and MRC have announced the inaugural class of writers and mentors for their TV incubator.  The new TV writers residency program, which was launched in February, offers a paid, eight-month residency program to a group of writers who have each previously been staffed on series and want to create their [...]

  • CBS Viacom

    CBS and Viacom Move Closer to Merger Talks

    The CBS Corp. board of directors is moving closer to initiating acquisition discussions with Viacom, according to multiple sources close to the situation. The move has been expected for months, although there may still be obstacles on the road to a reunion for the two sides of the Redstone media empire. Price could still be [...]

  • Santa Fe Studios Netflix

    Santa Fe Studios Competes With Other New Mexico Stages for Streaming Business

    Albuquerque Studios entered the spotlight last October when it was purchased by Netflix. While the complex is clearly the jewel in the crown of New Mexico’s production infrastructure, with eight soundstages totaling 132,000 square feet, 100,000 square feet of production offices, a large backlot and support space, it’s not the only modern studio facility in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content