The sweatshop scandal Kathie Lee Gifford was involved in

America’s golden girl Kathie Lee Gifford has certainly had her fair share of ups and downs during her time in the spotlight. While gracing the television screens of countless viewers every morning on both Live! with Regis & Kathie Lee and TODAY, she has also had some very soul-crushing lows, including her husband Frank’s rumored infidelity and, years later, his sudden death. Yet, while much of Gifford’s heartache was of the personal variety, she has also suffered her fair share of professional strife.

But perhaps the biggest scandal to rock Gifford’s world came in 1996 when a labor activist by the name of Charles Kernaghan blew the whistle that her clothing brand, Kathie Lee, was being manufactured in sweatshops made up of 13- and 14-year-old Honduran girls (via The New York Times). To be fair, retail titan Walmart was actually responsible for producing the clothing, but once the news hit the circuit, Gifford suddenly found herself in the midst of a serious PR nightmare! But how did Gifford react to the revelation?

Keep reading after the jump to learn all of the sordid details surrounding this massive public relations (and moral) disaster. 

Kathie Lee Gifford waged a war against sweatshops

According to The New York Times, Kathie Lee Gifford’s knee-jerk reaction was to simply discontinue the clothing brand. “My first reaction was I don’t need this,” she confessed. “But they told me that I had a unique opportunity to make a difference by using what happened to me to stop the horrible practices of some of these manufacturers.” After some prodding by New York Governor George Pataki and the U.S. Labor Secretary Robert B. Reich, Gifford opted to change course and, instead, waged a war against sweatshops. 

As luck would have it, however, Gifford found herself smack dab in the middle of yet another controversy regarding poor working conditions in 1999. This time, it was purported that Gifford had hired thousands of Salvadoran women to work under unsafe and extreme conditions, which included 11-hour shifts, six days a week in sweltering conditions for a meager wage of 60 cents an hour, according to E! News.

Once again, Gifford released a statement regarding the accusations and vowed to halt all manufacturing at the facility in question. But Gifford’s move was not enough for whistleblower and head of the National Labor Committee, Charles Kernaghan. “Kathie Lee Gifford is a celebrity, a very influential and powerful person,” he said, before taking her to task for not living up to her previous promises of putting an end to the sweatshops that manufacture her clothing.

We are going to go out on a limb here and guess that Gifford probably wishes she had never delved into the fashion world at all.

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