This week, Viacom’s BET cable television network came under heavy scrutiny over the highly questionable termination of two of its longtime senior executives.
According to Variety Magazine, veteran BET president Stephen Hill and Zola Mashariki (pictured above), head of original programming were fired by the network. Debra Lee, BET’s CEO and another unnamed senior management spokesperson issued public statements this week, which exposed the ownership’s desire to go in a different direction when it came to the network’s leadership personnel. In her public statement, Lee even insinuated that her time as a top BET executive has probably run its course as well.
The reasons behind these terminations have not been explained, Variety reports. However, it is the story behind Mashariki’s termination that has given this particular case the negative coverage that has unfolded very recently.
Mashariki sent an email to her former BET colleagues letting them know that she has been on medical leave since February battling breast cancer. Mashariki also gave a reassurance in the email that she planned on returning to her job soon once she recovers from a surgical procedure she underwent recently.
But an unnamed senior management spokesperson at BET shot down Mashariki’s claims and maintained that she was no longer a member of the network’s senior management staff. “These claims misrepresent the facts and are without merit,” the anonymous spokesperson told Variety. “We strongly deny any allegation of wrongdoing,” they continued. Variety reported that a correspondent at the magazine attempted to reach out to Mashariki and her attorney. However, no response was received.
Variety was able to obtain an email sent by Mashariki, which expressed devastation and sadness regarding her health, as well as her unfortunate employment matter. The email partially reads as follows:
“It’s a painful recovery for me. It has also been hard on my children. “Here are the facts. 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.”
Though her scenario seems acrimoniously insurmountable to solve without legal action being taken, Mashariki remains optimistic, stating that BET’s ownership will “fix this.”