Former BET CEO Debra Lee has recently spoken out about workplace harassment throughout her career.
In a recent interview on Tuesday with “Good Morning America, she discussed her new memoir, “I Am Debra Lee,” which disclosed her affair with BET founder Bob Johnson.
The mogul alleged that she faced retaliation from former BET founder Bob Johnson after they had an affair.
“I wanted to tell that story because power dynamics are so important in a relationship, especially if you’re having a relationship with someone you work for. We all know the potential pitfalls,” she said. “I worked for Bob Johnson for 10 years before we had a personal, romantic relationship. He was a mentor, and he pushed me, and he was responsible for a lot of my success.”
The affair started when they were both married and continued after they divorced. At that point, “people knew about the relationship. The company knew. We started going places together.”
When Lee wanted to break up with Johnson, she claimed her “job and my career were held over my head.”
Johnson allegedly told her, “Well, if you want to break up with me, then you can leave tomorrow.”
Lee said that was 20 years into her career at BET, and she would have lost everything. It would have been difficult for her to get a new job without Johnson’s recommendation. She was also embarrassed to talk to her family about the affair and eventually sought therapy.
After Johnson left the company, Lee became CEO, and she was the head honcho for 13 years without her former lover and mentor there. Lee says that she was able to live her dream without any form of harassment from Johnson. The 68-year-old boss admitted that, at times, the affair felt consensual because they were out in public.
“But after #MeToo and Time’s Up, she re-evaluated the relationship and questioned if it was really my choice,” she said.
Watch the full interview below: