We are a few days away from the Grammy Awards, and the entire situation surrounding the Recording Academy, the body that puts the show on every year, is becoming more fraught with every passing day. Last year, Deborah Dugan succeeded the long-reigning Neil Portnow as CEO of the Recording Academy. Dugan, the first female CEO in Academy history, was ousted just 10 days before the awards show, and just five months after she took the office. The Recording Academy claimed that a female staff member had made a former allegation of misconduct against Dugan. Dugan responded by talking about all sorts of things that have allegedly been happening behind the scenes at the Academy.
According to reports earlier this week, Dugan filed a sexual harassment and gender discrimination suit, which claimed a whole lot of things about the Academy. That complaint included a note that Neil Portnow, Dugan’s predecessor, had been accused of rape. (Dugan says that the academy knew about the accusations against Dugan but that she only found out after she took the job.) She also claimed Joel Katz, a general counsel for the Academy, made unwanted advances and tried to kiss her at a dinner meeting, just after she took the job. (Portnow and Katz have both denied her claims.) And Dugan said that the Academy has been giving preferential treatment to certain artists when finalizing the nominations, letting those conflicts of interest taint the results.
This morning, a distraught-looking Dugan and her lawyer Douglas Wigdor were guests on Good Morning America, where they told George Stephanopoulos about their case. Dugan recounted, for instance, her dinner with Joel Katz: “All the way through I felt that I was being tested and how much would I acquiesce. I realized that was a power setting move just on the onset.”
Dugan also spoke about the vote-fixing, though she refused to name the artist who allegedly benefitted from the corrupt Academy practices: “For the artist’s privacy and for the integrity of all those artists that are going to perform and get nominations this year, I don’t want to say.” She also said that she has evidence of the vote-fixing. She also said that the staff member who made the complaint against her was a former administrative assistant for Neil Portnow.
Throughout the interview, Dugan gives the impression that she wasn’t looking for all this attention and that she just wanted to help improve the Grammys: “Today, I was supposed to be giving a speech on the Billboard Power 100 about women in music.” Dugan said that she will watch the Grammys this year, and after being asked by Stephanopoulos, she also said that viewers will be able to watch this year’s show with a clear conscience.
But Wigdor, Dugan’s attorney, put the case in stark terms: “The Grammys, really, is on life support. I mean, the statements that they’re giving about Ms. Dugan creating a toxic work environment, getting the executive board members to make statements — they are in panic mode right now.” Here’s the interview:
FULL INTERVIEW: "I have evidence…"
— Good Morning America (@GMA) January 23, 2020
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UPDATE: The Recording Academy has issued a statement disputing Deborah Dugan’s claims that the Grammys nomination process is corrupt. “Spurious allegations claiming members or committees use our process to push forward nominations for artists they have relationships with are categorically false, misleading and wrong,” the Chief Awards Officer Bill Freimuth said in a statement to Pitchfork. “This process is strictly enforced with everyone involved and has no exceptions.”