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Grammy Awards Will Take Place Under A Cloud Of Allegations


Winners of the 62nd Grammy Awards are going to be announced Sunday night, but there is a cloud hanging over this ceremony. Last week, Deborah Dugan, the recently installed president and CEO of The Recording Academy that hands out the awards, was placed on administrative leave. Earlier this week, Dugan filed a discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, including allegations of sexual misconduct and vote rigging. NPR's Anastasia Tsioulcas has more.

ANASTASIA TSIOULCAS, BYLINE: The Recording Academy has been struggling for years with criticism that the Grammys were too male, too white, too old and too insular. In came Dugan five months ago, The Academy's first female leader. She pledged that the organization could do better, as she told NPR last month.


DEBORAH DUGAN: We've known as an industry for a long time that we have a monumental problem with gender issues.

TSIOULCAS: Then just over a week ago, The Recording Academy abruptly announced that it had placed Dugan on leave pending an investigation into an allegation of bullying that came from a female assistant. But in an interview yesterday, Dugan claimed she was placed on leave as retaliation for accusations she made and changes she proposed.


DUGAN: I did have discussions with the board and with the executive committee. There were some things I got pushback on, like, oh, we don't need a chief diversity officer.

TSIOULCAS: Specifically, Dugan says her suspension is the result of a memo she sent to The Academy's human resources director in which she accused The Academy's general counsel, Joel Katz, of sexual harassment. And she alleged irregularities and conflicts in the way artists are nominated for Grammys.


DUGAN: There's a degree of corruption in that system, and it might have happened over time, but there is a problem when you have board members on those committees that have a vested business interest in certain artists winning.

TSIOULCAS: In her EEOC complaint, Dugan reiterated her accusations against Katz and she said she learned that her predecessor, Neil Portnow, had been accused of raping a female artist. Katz denies her accusations. Portnow said in a statement that he was investigated and exonerated. Harvey Mason Jr. is the chairman of The Recording Academy, and he would not address any specifics of the Dugan situation yesterday.


HARVEY MASON JR: This is our biggest season for music, and this night is everything to our organization. So what we are doing is really focusing on the show and the musicians and trying to make sure that the spotlight doesn't get taken away from that.

TSIOULCAS: As of now, no artists slated to perform at the Grammys have pulled out, and Billboard magazine's Melinda Newman has a theory.

MELINDA NEWMAN: I honestly think this is so complex and once you've heard one thing and you think you might have enough information to make your mind up, something else drops. And I think we haven't seen the reaction yet because people are shocked.

TSIOULCAS: As Sunday night approaches, Deborah Dugan says that her short tenure at The Recording Academy illustrates three things.


DUGAN: This has hit me about women CEOs in corporate America, how hard it is for women in the music industry. And it's hit me that I can't believe three years after the #MeToo movement that we still have this system of character assassination. I'm deeply saddened that I came to take on this position, and I was slapped with all three of those issues.

TSIOULCAS: All of the issues she was hired to address. Anastasia Tsioulcas, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Anastasia Tsioulcas is a reporter on NPR's Arts desk. She is intensely interested in the arts at the intersection of culture, politics, economics and identity, and primarily reports on music. Recently, she has extensively covered gender issues and #MeToo in the music industry, including backstage tumult and alleged secret deals in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against megastar singer Plácido Domingo; gender inequity issues at the Grammy Awards and the myriad accusations of sexual misconduct against singer R. Kelly.