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BET Exec on Medical Leave (Zola Mashariki) Blindsided by Announcement She is Stepping Down

PARK CITY, UT - JANUARY 22: Head of Original Programming at BET Zola Mashariki attends the BET Hosted Reception at Riverhorse On Main on January 22, 2017 in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for BET)
Head of Original Programming at BET Zola Mashariki attends the BET Hosted Reception at Riverhorse On Main on January 22, 2017 in Park City, Utah.

*Page Six is reporting of some “next-level crazy” going on with Viacom’s executive shake-up at BET.

As previously reported, network CEO Debra Lee sent a memo Wednesday announcing executives Stephen Hill and Zola Mashariki would be stepping down, but according to Page Six, “Mashariki is still under contract and was blindsided by the announcement.”

A source told the column: “Debra wanted it to be perceived that the transition was a part of Viacom’s restructure, so she included Mashariki in the exit story in an effort to protect Stephen, who was ousted. [Viacom] wanted him out.”

According to Page Six, Mashariki took medical leave earlier this year after being diagnosed with breast cancer and was baffled to read she was stepping down from her role as EVP head of original programming.

“She was receiving calls and she had no idea what people were talking about because she never accepted any kind of deal nor was she told to leave,” the source said.

A network insider claims Mashariki was fired before she took medical leave.

“She was terminated as a result of her own performance prior to taking medical leave. They then allowed her to keep her contract, so she was able to keep her salary and benefits after being diagnosed. She is definitely terminated,” the insider said.

But, Mashariki, upon seeing Debra Lee’s memo, fired off one of her own to her staff, reassuring them that she would be returning to the network soon:

I heard yesterday that Stephen was leaving BET. I’m concerned that there was a reference to me, as Stephen’s departure is a separate issue from my status at the company. Here are the facts: I am on medical leave. 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,” she wrote. “Bob Bakish 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 is not in keeping with those values. I am continuing to focus on improving my health. I have faith in the Viacom/BET leadership and know they will fix this. I have a long history in Hollywood and am grateful for the outpouring of support I have received across the entire industry during this difficult time. 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.

After getting wind of Mashariki’s memo, Debra Lee, was reportedly too embarrassed to issue a retraction over Mashariki’s job status.

“Debra’s really embarrassed and was like it would make her look bad if they put out a retraction. They even told Zola’s lawyer, ‘What if we offered her a dream exit package to save face because it’s going to be hard to get Debra to put out a new statement. Can we find a middle ground?’”

Lee’s carelessness with the memo may be because “her days are numbered. She was planning to step down as CEO if Hillary Clinton got elected. There was talk of her having a role in Hillary’s camp,” the source said.

A rep for BET told Page Six, “These claims misrepresent the facts and are without merit. We strongly deny any allegation of wrongdoing. In addition, we will not comment on specific employee matters.”

 

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