Former BET CEO Debra Lee has revealed in her memoir that she had an affair with BET founder Bob Johnson while they were both married. During an interview with Good Morning America, Lee revealed that she started a romantic relationship with Johnson while climbing the ranks at the network. She revealed that things were good until she wanted out of the relationship.
She explained, “I worked for Bob Johnson for 10 years before we had a personal romantic relationship, and he was a mentor and he pushed me and you know – he’s responsible for a lot of my success.”
She continued, “The downfall of a relationship like that is if you want to get out of it…It came, I wanted to break-up. I saw it wasn’t a long term relationship and my job and my career was held over my head. It was like ‘well if you want to break up with me you can leave tomorrow.”
She added, “That was 20 years into my career at BET, so I would’ve lost everything,”
Lee revealed that things became problematic with Johnson as she didn't have anyone to turn to as she had no role models at the time and was too ashamed to bring the issue to family and friends. Afraid of potentially losing her income and not being able to secure work as a single mother of 2, Lee endured and stayed with the company.
With the help of therapy and Bob Johnson’s eventual departure, however, Lee went on to achieve much success with the network, becoming and remaining BET’s CEO for 13 years while “living out my dream.”
Lee's memoir I Am Debra Lee is out now.