The View’s Sunny Hostin, whose memoir I Am These Truths is just out from HarperCollins’ HarperOne division, is not only biting the hand that feeds her, she’s also adding to the already serious image troubles of ABC News and its corporate parent, the Walt Disney Co.
The 51-year-old Hostin—the daughter of a Black father and Puerto Rican-Jewish mother, who grew up in public housing and became a federal prosecutor and Emmy-winning television journalist before officially joining The View four years ago—is accusing ABC execs of institutional and personal racism in both her memoir and in her interviews to promote it.
She claims network execs paid her less than her white co-hosts on the popular daytime show (although Hostin didn’t name-check Meghan McCain and Abby Huntsman, the celebrity daughters of famous political fathers), and says the execs didn’t bother to formally announce her official role on The View, and subjected her to various “indignities,” including initially assigning her a dressing room on a different floor from the dressing rooms of her on-air colleagues.
A spokesperson for The View, which is now in its 24th season and produced by ABC News, declined to comment on Hostin’s allegations—another instance of negative PR for Disney, whose epic feature film Mulan is under fire for its public appreciation for and collaboration with Chinese communist officials who are perpetrating genocide on hundreds of thousands of members of China’s Uighur Muslim minority.
In her book’s foreword and in a recent Zoom talk with New Yorker writer Ronan Farrow, Hostin has also claimed the ABC News management attempted to censor her and that she hired a lawyer to push back on ABC’s attempt to delete passages that were critical of the network.
“I felt I had been somewhat censored by ABC in writing the book,” Hostin told Farrow, who was interviewing her on behalf of the Washington, D.C., independent bookstore Politics and Prose. “I did remove some passages. I think they were concerned about how it made the network look.”
But after network officials vetted her book, and shortly before it went to press, Hostin wrote an additional, unvetted section—a forward that expressed her frustration with the censors in ABC News’ standards and practices department: “While I was grateful that ABC News caught a few factual errors that would have embarrassed me, they were also asking me to delete parts of my story that might cast ABC in an unfavorable light. Deleting those passages didn’t feel right to me—they were all true, and they were some of the battle scars of my experience.”
In her foreword, Hostin continued: “My television agent and my book agent emailed me to express confusion that a news organization would try to censor a Puerto Rican, African American woman’s story while they were covering global demonstrations demanding racial equity. One of them even calculated the percentages of people of color on the executive boards at Disney, ABC Entertainment, and ABC News—according to him those figures ranged from 7 to 12 percent. I asked my attorneys to intervene and thankfully ABC relented. I didn’t want to believe that racism played a part in their revision requests—we were just dotting some i’s and crossing some t’s, right?”
Wrong. This past June, HuffPost reporter Yashar Ali contacted Hostin concerning top news division exec Barbara Fedida’s disparaging and racist remarks about Black on-air personalities such as Robin Roberts and Kendis Gibson; Ali also reported that Fedida privately called Hostin “low rent”—an especially painful insult because Hostin as a child had lived with her parents in low-income public housing.
Hostin wrote that she refused to accede to ABC’s demands that she delete passages that expressed her “suspicions that I was treated worse than my white colleagues—the fears that I tried to talk myself out of many times—maybe they were true. Had my employer, my home away from home, devalued, dismissed, and underpaid me because of my race? I had just read emails from them directing me to erase evidence of such treatment from my story. And if I’m being honest, I wasn’t even angry. I was deeply, profoundly shaken and saddened.”
Responding to Ali’s report, ABC News President James Goldston placed Fedida on administrative leave and, after an internal investigation, fired her.
“I think I’m the only host in history that didn’t have a formal announcement—you know, ‘Welcome the new host of The View!,’” Hostin told Farrow. “I was sort of guest-hosting, guest-hosting, guest-hosting and then just was there.”
She added, “I think I was treated differently than a white woman would have been treated, yes I do. I was given a dressing room on a different floor. And I noticed that other co-hosts that came on after I came on were given dressing rooms on the main floor with everyone else.
“And while that seems like a small thing, those little indignities that make you feel and question whether or not you are being treated differently—whether or not the expectations for you are just different—and you wonder: ‘Am I being crazy? Am I being sensitive? Am I playing the race card?’… It felt wrong to not tell the truth.”