Top DEI execs from Disney to Netflix exit, sparks criticism of their lack of effectiveness in Hollywood

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A recent string of high-profile exits in Hollywood is fueling questions whether backlash towards the left’s diversity push has reached the entertainment industry

Between June 20 and July 3, at least five executives at top entertainment and media companies leading Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives have stepped down or were pushed out of their roles. 

On June 20, it was revealed that Disney’s chief diversity officer Latondra Newton was leaving her post after leading the Mouse’s DEI department since 2017 to focus on her own company. Variety reports Disney is seeking a replacement. 

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Latondra Newton at event

Latondra Newton stepped down as Disney’s chief diversity officer; she first took on the role in 2017. (Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney)

Under Newton’s watch, Disney Parks aimed to use more gender-neutral language, phasing out the greeting “Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls” and implementing inclusive language for employees who ran the Cinderella-themed boutiques formally called “Fairy Godmothers in Training” to become “Fairy Godmother’s Apprentices.”

“We want to create that magical moment with our cast members, with our guests,” Newton previously said. “And we don’t want to just assume because someone might be in, our interpretation, may be presenting as female that they may not want to be ‘princess.’”

On June 28, it was announced Netflix’s inclusion strategy chief and self-described “DEI expert” Vernā Myers is stepping down in September after five years but will remain as an adviser for the streaming giant. Her vice president Wade Davis will assume the role following her departure. 

Vernā Myers holds diversity book

Vernā Myers, author of “Moving Diversity Forward,” will be leaving Netflix as its inclusion strategy chief after five years with the streaming giant.  (Marla Aufmuth/Getty Images for Watermark Conference for Women)

Two exits were announced June 30. Janelle English exited the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the Oscars) just one year after she was promoted in the newly created role as executive VP of Impact and Inclusion. 

English joined the Film Academy in 2020 as its office director for Representation Inclusion and Equity after being a DEI chief for Discovery (now Warner Bros. Discovery). Her addition came just three months after the Academy announced its “representation and inclusion” standards for Oscars eligibility that requires films to feature higher percentages of “underrepresented” groups in their casts and crews.

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The second departure announced Friday was Karen Horne, who was laid off by Warner Bros. Discovery as its DEI senior vice president due to “reorganization” of the company’s division, according to the company’s top DEI chief Asif Sadiq.

Karen Horne gives speech

DEI executive Karen Horne was laid off from Warner Bros. Discovery last week. (Paul Morigi/Getty Images for National Women’s History Museum)

Then on Monday, Variety reported the BBC’s creative diversity chief Joanna Abeyie had left after less than two years on the job to return to her consultancy business.

Many of the responses to a viral tweet recapping the headlines noted that all the outgoing execs are Black women. 

Seneca Scott, founder and CEO of Neighbors Together Oakland, replied to the viral tweet by repeating his warning to others to not accept such DEI roles because they “do nothing.”

“They’d start to get more minorities in the company and get them into positions of influence… if they were actually in good faith pushing those initiatives,” Scott told Fox News Digital. “The problem is they fail because they don’t address what really creates an impactful employee, which is mentorship and opportunities.”

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DEI execs

There has been a string of DEI executives who have left major Hollywood companies including  Latondra Newton from Disney, Vernā Myers from Netflix, and Karen Horne from Warner Bros. Discovery. (Getty Images)

Kim Crayton, aka the “Antiracist Economist,” offered a similar skepticism towards DEI positions, tweeting “Systems, institutions, and policies that privilege the few at the expense of the many operating as DESIGNED…this is why when asked by Black women my opinion about DEI roles I caution them that in most orgs they ARE performative AND expendable.”

“Without a clear plan for inclusion nor investment, many of these roles are seen as obsolete because there wasn’t a clear intention for change,” Minorities in Publishing podcast host Jennifer Baker also wrote. 

Comedian and political satirist Tim Young views the abrupt turnover as a sign that the DEI programs are a “complete failure” and speculated that they have become an “internal headache” for these companies, whose sales have largely suffered in recent years. 

“I think there’s been a quiet shift to get rid of the people causing the problems, but it’s not so quiet when you see everything adding up,” Young told Fox News Digital. 

Young insisted, however, that Hollywood will remain in its ideological bubble and it’ll take “a few billion dollars in losses” before they “wake up” to the unsuccessful DEI reality. 

Chasing Liberty Substack writer Jeff Charles similarly isn’t convinced that the string of departures is due to DEI backlash within showbiz but did point to the decline in DEI job listings and recent DEI-related staffers in Big Tech as a sign that the “furor” following George Floyd’s murder is finally subsiding.

“These companies created these positions as a way to virtue signal to the rest of the country and to pretend they care about the plight of Black Americans,” Charles told Fox News Digital. “Now that the furor has died down, these companies no longer have to do this, which is why they are diverting resources away from diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.”

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The DEI push is not just being scrutinized in Hollywood. In Corporate America, the similarly-themed ESG (Environmental Social Governance) movement, which has companies prioritizing social justice and the green agenda, has faced such public backlash that the CEO of BlackRock, which is widely seen as a champion of the ESG cause, expressed remorse last month saying he was “ashamed of being part of this conversation,” reframing such principles as “conscientious capitalism.” 

Prioritization of diversity even made its way to the Supreme Court, which struck down affirmative action in the college admissions process that found it discriminated against Asian students while heavily favoring Black and Hispanic students when evaluating candidates on their race. Experts suggest the historic ruling could hold businesses liable going forward for their DEI practices. 



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