BET Fires Exec on Medical Leave, Leading Nas’ Manager to Go Off: ‘I Sold a Show to Wack-Ass BET’

Zola Mashariki spent 15 years with Fox Searchlight before joining BET. (LinkedIn)

BET’s executive lineup has changed twice in one week but one department head who was medical leave with breast cancer was blindsided by the shake-up, leading Nas’ manager to cry foul and promise retribution.

The network’s chairman and CEO Debra Lee gave BET President of Programming Stephen Hill plenty of space to confront his decision to leave with a letter to staff, but EVP Head of Original Programming Zola Mashariki’s departure was surprisingly only briefly mentioned in a memo announcing the role would be temporarily filled by Senior Vice President for Specials, Music Programming and News Connie Orlando.

“Zola Mashariki, EVP, and Head of Original Programming will also be departing the network,” Lee wrote in a memo sent to employees Wednesday, March 29 and obtained by Deadline.

Masharki, who had worked for BET since 2015, revealed in a separate statement obtained by the movie industry website Thursday, March 30, that she had been undergoing treatment for breast cancer since February and has been on furlough ever since.

“Here are the facts: I am on medical leave,” Masharki wrote. “My job is protected by the Family Medical Leave Act and related statutes (FMLA) and I have a contract in place. Viacom/BET are aware that I am scheduled to return on April 11 and that my medical leave may need to be extended depending on the progress of my recovery.

“[CEO of BET’s owner Viacom] Bob Bakish has said our company values should be honesty, empathy and bravery. I agree with this wholeheartedly and our team has embodied this over the 2 years we have worked together. Without question, including me in Stephen’s departure announcement [is] not in keeping with those values.”

In reaction, Nas’ manager, Anthony Saleh, expressed disappointment in selling “Street Dreams,” a series based on Nas’ life, to BET.

“This is one of the most pathetic things I’ve ever seen in my career,” Saleh wrote on Instagram Friday, March 31. “I sold a show to WACK ASS BET. To Nas … I finally made my first mistake and it was a big one. I’m gonna walk with shame and humility publicly on this one but god knows I’m gonna do something about it. And to Zola …. we sold our show to you. You were the only reason and you legitimized that place. Watch my little ass take that f—— place down.”


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