entertainment 8 months ago

Simon Cowell At Center Of NBC “Further Investigation” After Meeting With Gabrielle Union Over ‘America’s Got Talent’ – UPDATE

Deadline — Patrick Hipes and Dominic Patten

UPDATE, 3:05 PM: Now both NBC and Gabrielle Union are calling their sit down yesterday over America’s Got Talent “productive,” but it looks like all roads could lead to Simon Cowell.

“The initial conversation was candid and productive,” said the network this afternoon after a nearly five-hour meeting on Tuesday about the alleged toxic culture on the long running competition series. “While there will be a further investigation to get a deeper understanding of the facts, we are working with Gabrielle to come to a positive resolution,” added NBC.

Among a number of topics raised, that further investigation involves AGT creator and judge Cowell, who seems to be at the center of what went down during Union’s one-season stint on the show. However, the next step in the process for NBC is to have an as yet undetermined independent investigator prioritize moving things forward. How much of that process Cowell will be is not yet clear, we hear.

Yet, Deadline has learned that the great part of the discussion yesterday did revolve around the acerbic Brit’s behavior and overlording of the Fremantle and Cowell’s Syco produced AGT. “The ball is in NBC’s court to see if they can get Cowell to agree to make some changes to the way things are done on the show,” an insider tells me.

Since this all exploded publicly last week, NBC has been trying to gather what was said to whom by who, and which people Union talked to about matters such as her hair and wardrobe choices being “too black.” The network brass and their lawyers also wants to know who revealed never-aired, inappropriate jokes by guest Jay Leno and illegal inside smoking by Cowell, and what truly transpired in a May meeting between Union and Cowell at his Malibu home. Hearing about these issues firsthand from Union for the first time was “clarifying,” a person will knowledge of the meeting says.

It should be noted that in recent days ex-AGT judges Howard Stern and Sharon Osbourne have said aloud respectively that Union’s ouster from AGT was “orchestrated” by Cowell and that the show is a “boys club.”  

Stay tuned.

PREVIOUSLY, 2:15 PM: Gabrielle Union said today that she and NBC had a long meeting Tuesday in the wake of Union and Julianne Hough’s abrupt exits as judges last month on the network’s hit summer series America’s Got Talent.

The news comes after Deadline exclusively revealed on December 2 that the two sides would meet amid the controversy over her departure from the show. The purpose of the meeting was to improve the culture and atmosphere on the competition series.

Supposedly caught by surprise by most of the claims surrounding the sudden exits of Union and fellow judge Julianne Hough, NBC has been determined to show that any investigation they initiate maintains strict and unbiased independence, sources close to the matter say. Sources said Tuesday’s meeting would be with NBC’s recently retained outside counsel. It was unclear whether anyone from the Comcast-owned network would be in the meeting outside if its own senior in-house legal team.

“We had a lengthy 5-hour, and what I thought to be, productive meeting yesterday,” Union tweeted today. “I was able to, again, express my unfiltered truth. I led with transparency and my desire and hope for real change.”

NBC has not responded to the news of the meeting today.

Multiple reports suggested Union was dismissed after complaining about a hostile work environment and racially charged incidents at AGT. Those complaints included about AGT‘s “toxic” workplace culture and speaking out about “problematic,” racially insensitive segments on the show.

Now under investigation by SAG-AFTRA, the network and AGT‘s producers (Fremantle and Simon Cowell’s Syco) previously had insisted that “America’s Got Talent has a long history of inclusivity and diversity in both our talent and the acts championed by the show.”

On Sunday, the companies put out another statement as the fallout has only intensified. “We remain committed to ensuring a respectful workplace for all employees and take very seriously any questions about workplace culture,” the statement read. “We are working with Ms. Union through her representatives to hear more about her concerns, following which we will take whatever next steps may be appropriate.”

Union and Hough’s departures as judges for next summer’s edition were announced November 22.

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