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The Grammy Awards are this Sunday, but a much bigger story has been going down behind the scenes that may just come to a head this weekend.
It all revolves around Deborah Dugan, who had been president of the Recording Academy for more than year before being put on administrative leave just a week ago. Her suspension came three weeks after she sent a memo to the Academy’s HR department alleging sexual harassment against Joel Katz, the Academy’s general legal counsel. (Katz has vehemently denied this allegation.) News of this came out when Dugan’s legal team filed a discrimination complaint against the Academy on Tuesday.
Dugan’s team believes she was suspended because of what was in her memo, while the Academy claims she was suspended due to a complaint of abuse and bullying filed by her current assistant Claudine Little. The complaint from Little, who was the former assistant of Neil Portnow, the former president, was filed in November 2019, however, bringing the Academy’s timing into question.
Dugan’s memo, as reported by The New York Times , also includes claims of a corrupt Grammy voting board; a rape allegation against Portnow made by a female artist (which Portnow has also denied in a recent statement); accusations of a “boys’ club mentality” that has created a sexist atmosphere, and countless other serious accusations, including that Dugan was paid less for her role than Portnow.
Dugan is currently being investigated by the Academy. Her temporary stand-in, Harvey Mason, Jr., has since accused her of spreading “misinformation” and has claimed she was attempting to extort the Academy for $22 million in exchange for dropping her allegations, according to Vulture .
The women on the Academy board have banded together and released a joint statement this week denying Dugan’s claims of a sexist workplace. “It is deeply disturbing to us — and quite frankly, heartbreaking — to witness the firestorm against our organization that has been unleashed,” the statement reads. “We have collectively volunteered many years of service guiding and supporting this organization. We would not have taken precious time away from our families and careers if we felt that it was a ‘boys’ club.’ We are leaders of this organization and fully committed to transformational change both within the Academy and within our industry at large.”
Dugan addressed all of the drama on Thursday during a Good Morning America appearance, detailing her experience with Katz. When asked why she didn’t take legal action, Dugan said, “Because I actually wanted to make change from within. I moved across country, I had a great job, I believe in what the Recording Academy should stand for: artists. And I was trying at each step to take a deep breath and say ‘OK, I can make a difference. I can fix this. I can work with this team.'”
She also went on to claim she has evidence of Grammy rigging, adding, “I’m saying that the system should be transparent and there are instances of conflicts of interest that ‘taint’ the results.”
Vulture spoke to Terri Winston, executive director of Women’s Audio Mission and one of the members of the original task force created to investigate bias in the Academy in 2018. Winston said the task force was not consulted before the Academy’s decision to suspend Dugan, adding, “I am very suspicious! It’s right before the Grammys. It’s very, very strange timing. The first time you’ve put a woman in charge and they magically fail right before the Grammys? And you make it a big media push? … She’s a bitch, right? Classic. We as a Task Force were tasked with meeting with her and pushing her to do this. And then they fire her. I don’t trust it.”
She added that she felt the task force might have been created to mask over the problems at the root of the Academy. Dugan, after all, became the first female president of the Grammys after Portnow resigned in 2018. He made his exit after a series of controversial comments, in which he denied that the Academy’s voting was sexist, saying instead that female artists should “step up” in hopes of being recognized.
It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out on Sunday night, with several celebrities and artists having jumped to Dugan’s defence. Ariana Grande, who is scheduled to perform, is also one of the artists Dugan claims was sidelined due to rigged votes. Whether she speaks up or pulls out entirely remains to be seen. Whatever the case, things are about to get even messier.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020