A number of former Fine Brothers Entertainment employees have spoken out about the sexism and toxicity faced in the workplace while working on the popular YouTube channels.
After a number of racism allegations surfaced throughout 2020, including videos of founders Benny and Rafi Fine in blackface, there was monumental backlash. This resulted in a number of staff and members of talent leaving, and the full extent of these allegations is available below.
Now, on March 24, 2021, Business Insider has reported that a number of former employees have accused the company of creating a toxic workplace environment, including allegations of sexism against female staff.
Sexism & toxicity allegations
In the piece, which also investigates past allegations made against the group, 13 former employees allege that they faced sexism while working for FBE.
One former production assistant told Insider that an older reactor once told her she looked “very sexy” in 2016 when she walked out of a room he was filming in. Two former staff members said they witnessed that incident. One told Insider that the same reactor said to her and the production assistant: “In my days, none of you guys would have jobs because you’re women.”
FBE’s response, it is stated, was to make female talent work with female production assistants, and vice versa. While the new plan only lasted “after about two weeks,” the victims say that it felt more like they were being restricted from opportunities rather than taking action against the perpetrators.
Several people told Insider they didn’t believe their experiences reflected intentional sexism. They felt the Fines hired “yes men” who blindly supported a culture of male privilege. “I think they were doing sexist things and didn’t even know it. It’s like systemic male privilege. They just don’t even know how that affects us.”
Former producer Julie Montoya also told Insider she was subjected to inappropriate comments in meetings. One example of this was Rafi Fine asking her — the only woman in the meeting — what kind of underwear she was wearing. Six others said they remember comments made by Rafi Fine they felt were inappropriate. Fine did not respond to Insider’s requests for comment.
In another investigative article by Insider back in January 2021, a number former employees spoke out about their experiences working for FBE. The company’s former head of casting, Steve Caustey, revealed that the Fine brothers used a three-tier system to rank their “reactors,” and demanded that at least 33% of the people in their “react” videos involved people in the top tier before an episode could be made.
Causey told Insider that there were “more white people at the top” of the tier, which meant that episodes ended up being predominately white.
He said in an interview with them: “It was noticeable, but I don’t think it was intentional. I feel like it might’ve started as unconscious bias, but after a time enough people brought it up that it should have been addressed.”
A former researcher told Insider that FBE staff “profit from the idea that they’re diverse without valuing it authentically. They try to capitalize and commercialize on it as much as they can.”
FBE’s lawyers said to Insider that race wasn’t a factor in decisions such as tiers and video thumbnails, with a spokesperson adding that the Fine brothers “have always endeavored to feature a majority of underrepresented voices in FBE’s content.”
What happened with FBE in 2020?
In June 2020, a video resurfaced of a comedy sketch Benny Fine did with fellow YouTuber Shane Dawson, wherein Benny was wearing blackface. The footage went viral and led to the two founders receiving extreme backlash.
High profile members of their ‘React’ series, such as Kennedy Zimet, made the decision to leave the channel after the footage went viral, with Zimet saying in a statement shared to Twitter that they felt “blindsided and flat out used, especially since they have not owned up to their actions by apologizing publicly or to their black cast members.”
This led to Mark Plier, who claimed to be a former producer for FBE, to say that the Fine brothers “wanted to benefit from the “diversity” but not benefit diversity,” alleging that YouTube video thumbnails with more than one BAME person were frequently turned down by the pair.
It was never outright said. But as a producer when getting episode thumbnails approved we came to learn they wanted to benefit from the "diversity" but not benefit diversity. Thumbnails with 2 POC, at least as long as the fines still directly gave notes on them, would be denied. https://t.co/NxVuQVWxs0
— #BLM NoN (@yofriendmarcus) June 11, 2020
He also claimed that they “would frequently ask for the person of color to be on the right of the thumbnail and not the left, our only conclusion as to why that would be is the left person is the first one you’d see and thus the first impression.”
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In further Tweets, Plier alleged that “the culture was so entrenched and they were so unwilling to hear our demands for changes that employee turnover became larger than the company’s actual size in just the 3 years I was there.”
The brothers released a statement apologizing for their “terrible errors of judgment” and ultimately decided to take a step back from the FBE company following the backlash.
They have not yet responded to the latest series of sexism allegations made against them in March 2021.