Thursday, May 23, 2024

The Empire Strikes Back: Grammy Female Execs, Grammy Former CEO All Take on Ousted Deborah Dugan Before She Takes Her War to “GMA”


This has really gotten out of hand. Deborah Dugan, ousted head of the Recording Academy, is appearing on “Good Morning America” Thursday morning in an effort to keep her war going against her almost former employer. Why? Does she really hate the Grammy Awards this much?

Today, the Empire Struck Back. The women of the Grammy executive committee issued their own declaration of solidarity against her and in favor of their organization. Also, and just as important, former CEO Neil Portnow out his denial regarding Dugan’s assertion that he, Portnow, allegedly raped a recording artist and that it was covered up.

Portnow says, and I do believe him: “The allegations of rape are ludicrous, and untrue. The suggestion that there was is disseminating a lie. The baseless complaint about my conduct referenced in the EEOC filing was immediately brought to the attention of the Board of Director’s Executive Committee. An in-depth independent investigation by experienced and highly regarded lawyers was conducted and I was completely exonerated. There was no basis for the allegations and once again I deny them unequivocally.”

I am told a woman did make an accusation against Portnow, and that it came to nothing. What happened next may have been a game of Telephone or just idiotic gossip. It should have ended there. But in this #MeToo environment, spurious allegations can lead to reputations being ruined. Ditto for NARAS lawyer Joel Katz, whom Dugan claims tried to kiss her in a public restaurant, and offered her discounts at Neiman Marcus on dresses so she’d look good at NARAS  events. In her EEOC complaint, Dugan says Katz offered to show her his vacation home. Have things gotten out of control? Knowing Joel for 25 years, he invites everyone to his house in the Bahamas. That’s who he is. It”s just called being nice. It’s unlikely he would even be there. (I’ve never been there, don’t get excited.)

Here is the statement from the very fine female board members of NARAS. None of these women would make such a statement if they didn’t believe it. They know something wacky is going on, and Dugan is counting on everyone falling for it in this environment.

“As women, voting members, creative artists and entrepreneurs who serve on the Board of Trustees of the Recording Academy, we are deeply committed to this organization and its affiliates and the good work that is done beyond the GRAMMY Awards – advocating for artists’ rights, providing critical assistance for music people in times of need and educating, mentoring and inspiring the next generation of music makers.

Along with our male colleagues, we have made great strides in increasing our diversity throughout the organization, both in leadership at the national level, within our twelve chapters around the country, and in the nominations. Diversity has always been a priority – although admittedly, not always easy to accomplish. The partnership with the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force, led by Tina Tchen and established in May 2018, amplified those efforts, created a clear path to follow and opened the door to building even more bridges to the music community at large. We pledge to continue those efforts.

It is deeply disturbing to us – and quite frankly, heartbreaking – to witness the firestorm against our organization that has been unleashed. The Academy is keenly sensitive to any and all allegations of harassment or abuse, and we support the independent investigations that have been launched. Thank you for your patience as these continue.

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.  

We stand ready to address all concerns, allegations and accusations with facts in hand. In the meantime we continue to pursue our mission of recognizing musical excellence, advocating for the well-being of music makers and ensuring music remains an indelible part of our culture.”


Tammy Hurt, Vice-Chair
Christine Albert, Chair Emeritus
Leslie Ann Jones, Trustee, Executive Committee Member
Terry Jones, Trustee, Executive Committee Member

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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