Little relevant new information was unveiled in ousted Grammy CEO Deborah Dugan’s appearances on ABC’s “Good Morning America” and “CBS This Morning” on Thursday. The executive, who was placed on administrative leave last Thursday after the organization made a strongly worded but vague claim of “misconduct” against her former assistant (who was also the assistant of her predecessor, Neil Portnow), appeared on the show to discuss her claims of corruption in the Grammy voting process and sexual harassment against the Academy.
Appearing live first on ABC and accompanied by her attorney Doug Wigdor, Dugan was clearly nervous and was interrupted frequently by show host George Stephanopoulos.
She began by saying that “There are definitely amazing, amazing people that work there in the recording academy and also on the Board,” before outlining her allegation of sexual harassment against the Academy general counsel Joel Katz, which she claims took place at a dinner last May after she was confirmed as the organization’s new president and CEO.
“At the very onset, under the guise of a work dinner I was propositioned by the general counsel, an entertainment lawyer of enormous power in the industry.”
Stephanopoulos interrupts to note that Katz “categorically denies those allegations and says you got the dinner completely wrong,” but she continues with her account, concluding, “I felt like I was being tested on how much would I acquiesce, and I realized that was a power setting move just on the onset as I was coming into the committee.”
Stephanopoulos notes that Dugan wrote in her memo to the Academy’s HR department, leveling multiple accusations, that “’I’m writing this not for you to take any action at this time.’ Why didn’t you want them to take action?”
“I actually wanted to make change from within,” she responded. “I believe in what the Recording Academy should stand for — for artists — and I was trying at each step to take a deep breath and say, ‘Okay, I can make a difference. I can fix this. I can work with this team.’”
Stephanopoulos then moves to her claims of corruption in the Grammy voting process, particularly the nominations, which are decided by secret committees of industry experts and executives. “When we’re watching the Grammys this Sunday, should we be thinking, ‘The fix is in, this is rigged?’”
“I’m saying that the system should be transparent,” she says, “and that there are incidents of conflict of interest that taints the results. I couldn’t say more positive things about all of the nominations and everybody that performs.
“Oh, my god, I hate that I’m in this situation, because I’d much rather be here talking about the artists and the music,” she continues, “but I have to say there are conflicts of interest that go on.”
Stephanopoulos then asks the pair to identify the artist who they claim in the complaint is represented by a Board member, who’d ranked 18th out of 2 th on the shortlist for the 2019 Best Song category but received a nomination, while Ed Sheeran and Ariana Grande were denied.
They declined. “For the artist’s privacy and for the integrity of all those artists that are going to perform and get nominations this year, I don’t want to say,” Dugan responds. “But it’s not even just that one room. I have evidence that in another room, of course, there were complaints made in the jazz category.”
Stephanopoulos interrupts to ask whether she has proof; Dugan speaks of “a claim that I filed.”
“This is pretty serious,” he says.
“Yes. It’s very serious and I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think I could make a difference.”
The brief interview concludes when Stephanopoulos says, “You love the artists and the Grammys. Are you going to watch on Sunday?”
“I am, she replied. “You know, I am. I worked very hard on the show. And I love the artists that are going to be performing and those that are nominated.”
“We can all watch in good conscience as well?”
“Yes, I think so.”
And with that, the interview concludes.
She is stronger in the CBS interview — she thanks the longtime Grammy home network for allowing her to appear — which covers similar ground. Of the nominating process, she says, “In that room not only are there trustees that have conflicts of interest on particular artists that are nominated, but more importantly there are even artists that are nominated that are in the room. So for me that’s just such a blatant conflict of interest.”
She notes that the system could be “fair and transparent” and there are “so many good people on the board, they deserve better.”
Asked whether she would return to her role if she is cleared, she said, “I wouldn’t go back unless they were willing to change.”
Dugan’s complaint mentions allegations that her predecessor, Neil Portnow, raped a female artist (and Academy executives were aware), a claim he has since denied; that Joel Katz, a prominent attorney who has been part of the Academy’s inner circle for decades, attempted to “woo” and kiss her after a private dinner, a claim he has since denied; “egregious conflicts of interest, improper self-dealing by Board members and voting irregularities with respect to nominations for Grammy Awards”; and that her emails were being monitored and shared with Academy executives by her assistant, Claudine Little, who was previously Portnow’s assistant; and exorbitant or unnecessary legal bills to outside attorneys, conflicts of interest and more (the company’s tax records show that it paid nearly $15 million to two outside law firms over five years).
The Grammy Awards air live on CBS Sunday evening at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT.