×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

BET Programming Head Fired While on Leave for Breast Cancer

BET announced the departure of two of its top executives this week: its longtime president Stephen Hill and head of original programming Zola Mashariki.

Hill, a prominent fixture at BET since 1999 known for close his relationships to talent, issued a hasty farewell email. Insiders say he was fired abruptly from the Viacom-owned network, for reasons that still remain unclear.

But according to sources with knowledge of internal discussions, Mashariki was caught off guard by public statements issued by the network and its CEO Debra Lee, which indicated she was out too. Mashariki sent her colleagues an email this week, notifying them that she’s been on medical leave since February after being diagnosed with breast cancer and that she planned on returning to her job.

A spokesperson for BET said that she’s no longer employed. “These claims misrepresent the facts and are without merit,” the rep told Variety. “We strongly deny any allegation of wrongdoing.”

Mashariki and her lawyer didn’t respond to requests for comment.

“I’m concerned that there was a reference to me, as Stephen’s departure is a separate issue from my status at the company,” Mashariki wrote in an email obtained by Variety that she sent to more than 40 colleagues after Wednesday’s statement. She said that she’d just undergone “another surgery.”

“It’s a painful recovery for me,” she wrote. “It has also been hard on my children.”

“Here are the facts,” Mashariki continued. “My job is protected by the Family Medical Leave Act and related statutes (FMLA) and I have a contract in place. Viacom/BET are aware that I am scheduled to return ‪on April 11 and that my medical leave may need to be extended depending on the progress of my recovery.”

“Bob Bakish”—she said, in reference to the CEO of Viacom Inc.—“has said our company values should be honesty, empathy and bravery. I agree with this wholeheartedly and our team has embodied this over the 2 years we have worked together. Without question, including me in Stephen’s departure announcement in not in keeping with those values.”

She ended her note to her colleagues by suggesting that she would like to come back to work. “I have faith in the Viacom/BET leadership and know they will fix this,” she wrote. “Our Original Programming team has accomplished a lot in a short time and the filmmakers and community are excited to work with us again. There is so much more to do.”

Mashariki joined BET in April 2015, after 15 years as a production executive at Fox Searchlight. She’s worked on such art-house hits like “The Last King of Scotland” and “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.”

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Shane Gillis SNL

    Shane Gillis Out From 'Saturday Night Live'

    “Saturday Night Live” is officially cutting ties with Shane Gillis. “After talking with Shane Gillis, we have decided that he will not be joining ‘SNL,'” an “SNL” spokesperson on behalf of Lorne Michaels said in a statement. “We want SNL to have a variety of voices and points of view within the show, and we [...]

  • Sophie Turner, Corey Hawkins to Lead

    Sophie Turner, Corey Hawkins to Lead Quibi Thriller Series

    Sophie Turner has found her first TV role post-“Game of Thrones.” The British actress, who is nominated at this year’s Emmys for playing Sansa Stark on the HBO mega-hit, is set to star alongside “Straight Outta Compton” actor Corey Hawkins in a thriller series in the works at Quibi. Titled “Survive,” the series is based [...]

  • Barton Fitzpatrick as Reg, Alex R.

    ‘The Chi’ Ups Justin Hillian to Showrunner, Ayanna Floyd Davis Exits

    “The Chi” has appointed a new showrunner for its forthcoming third season. Writer Justin Hillian will take over from season 2 showrunner Ayanna Floyd Davis, who departs as the series looks to emerge from the cloud of the Jason Mitchell misconduct affair. It was revealed in May that Mitchell had been fired from the series due [...]

  • Duane Chapman Hospitalized

    Duane 'Dog' Chapman 'Under Doctor's Care' After Reported Heart Emergency

    Duane Chapman, better known as Dog the Bounty Hunter, is “under doctor’s care” after reportedly suffering a heart emergency just months after the death of his wife, Beth Chapman. The reality star was taken to a hospital from his Colorado home over the weekend after experiencing chest pain, according to TMZ, which first reported the [...]

  • United Talent Agency Reveals New Logo

    UTA Unveils New Logo, Corporate Image

    UTA raised the curtain Monday on a new corporate logo. The three-dimensional image is meant to emphasize the talent agency’s focus on uniting ideas, opportunities and talent. Building signage with the new logo will go up next month at UTA’s headquarters in Beverly Hills. “Our new identity captures the multiple facets and intersections of our [...]

  • Jeff Bridges FX Pilot 'Old Man'

    Jeff Bridges FX Pilot 'Old Man' Casts Amy Brenneman

    Amy Brenneman has joined the cast of the FX drama pilot “Old Man.” She joins previously announced cast members Jeff Bridges and John Lithgow. Based on the bestselling novel of the same name by Thomas Perry, the series centers on Dan Chase (Bridges), who absconded from the CIA decades ago and has been living off the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content