McPherson to Silverman: ‘Be a Man’
July 25, 2007 7:00 PM
ABC Entertainment President Steve McPherson criticized newly instated NBC Co-Chair Ben Silverman for shrugging off the firing of former NBC entertainment head Kevin Reilly.
When reporters questioned Silverman last week about Reilly’s ouster from NBC, Silverman said he only just arrived at the company and wasn’t involved in the decision. McPherson, who has been friends with Reilly since they were fraternity brothers in college, was incredulous that Silverman could take such a stance after Reilly championed “The Office” — which Silverman executive produces.
“Kevin Reilly stood up for the ‘The Office’ … made Reveille money … then to stand up [at TCA] and say ‘I just got here …,’” McPherson said. “Be a man.”
McPherson made the comments at TCA during a post-panel huddle with reporters. The executive also expressed irritation that Silverman says he courted “Grey’s Anatomy” actor Isaiah Washington before ABC fired him, noting such a move could be construed as inciting the actor to breech his contract.
"If [Silverman] was talking to him before he was available … he’s either clueless or stupid," McPherson said. “You guys let [Silverman] off the hook … that’s your prerogative,” he said.
The dispute is more than a little unusual since Reilly is now the entertainment president of McPherson's competitor Fox, while Silverman remains executive producer of McPherson's prized breakout hit "Ugly Betty"—which just earned 11 Emmy nominations for ABC.
Top ABC executives are unhappy about McPherson’s comments, sources said, which are effectively dominating the headlines of ABC’s TCA coverage.
UPDATE: NBC insiders defended their new co-chair and depicted McPherson’s attack as self destructive.
“He used his corporate pulpit for his own personal vendetta,” one NBC source said. “What does ABC care about Kevin Reilly? If anything, McPherson should be thanking Silverman up the wazoo for ‘Betty.’”
The source contended McPherson’s comments will alienate Universal Media Studios and Silverman’s former production company, Reveille, in which Silverman still holds a financial stake. “You don’t want to be a buyer scaring off your sellers,” the source said.
As for McPherson’s contention that Silverman inappropriately courted Washington, the NBC insider said: “Everybody in this town talks to everybody, McPherson has done it plenty of times, Ben did nothing that was actionable.”
NBC declined comment.