Former CNN employee Omar Butcher sues, claiming race discrimination

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Omar Butcher has sued his employer CNN for racial discrimination. CREDIT: Twitter photo

This is posted on Rodney Ho’s AJC Radio & TV Talk blog on Wednesday, October 26, 2016 (contact me at rho@ajc.com if you have any thoughts or questions)

Another CNN employee has accused the Atlanta-based network of racial and religious discrimination in a lawsuit filed earlier this month.

Omar Butcher, who worked at CNN from 2010 to 2015, filed the lawsuit in the United States District Court Northern District of Georgia.

This is at least the third lawsuit filed by employees at CNN against the company over discrimination over the past year. The others were filed by Ricky Blalock and DeWayne Walker

According to the lawsuit, Butcher joined the network as an associate producer and tried to get a writing position but said he was passed over multiple times and discouraged from training.

A devout Christian, he said in the lawsuit he was offended by the use of profanity by other staffers, including terms regarding God and Jesus Christ. He asked that they stop doing so but was ignored.

He said he was also unfairly called out for not attending a meeting that white colleagues had missed.

Last year, Butcher complained in an email to then CNN host Ashleigh Banfield about a comment she made on air about African Americans.

“Have we lost a generation?” she said, according to the lawsuit. Whether “there is an entire generation out that there cannot be changed, that cannot be reached, they just have to age and die?”

He felt this was insulting and expressed his concern to her in a private email. She responded, the lawsuit said, in an email that went to his superiors, saying she felt he was calling her a “racist.”

A day later, he said he was fired.

Butcher is seeking unspecified compensation for “damages including emotional distress, inconvenience, loss of income and benefits, humiliation, and other indignities.”

CNN said it doesn’t comment about pending litigation.

Butcher’s attorney Edward Buckley said he is not making Butcher available for comment.

“I think he was a real asset to CNN and it’s unfortunate he got crosswired with a celebrity,” Buckley said. (Banfield, who had been hosting “Legal View” on CNN, has recently gone on to take over Nancy Grace‘s spot on HLN.)

Although Buckley has handled other discrimination cases in the past against CNN, he said he can’t say if this a widespread issue at the company.

“CNN is a large organization,” Buckley said. “There are often pockets, areas where management problems occur where bad decisions are made. You have so many people and so many managers that things happen. I can’t say this is part of a greater pattern.”

In 2014, the National Association of Black Journalists sent out a press release expressing concern about the atmosphere at CNN for African Americans.

Here was part of the release:

Several African Americans anchors have left the anchor desk or CNN altogether in the past few years including Soledad O’Brien, TJ Holmes and Suzanne Malveaux.

In addition the latest examination of newsroom managers finds only two African American executive producers.

A former writer/producer in CNN’s Los Angeles bureau filed a $5 million lawsuit against CNN on Monday that alleges discrimination and wrongful termination.

In the suit, Stanley Wilson alleges he applied for numerous promotions during his 17 years at CNN but was only promoted once in 2003. Wilson claims he was passed over by less experienced employees.

The Walker case is still in discovery. “We feel good about the case,” said Walker’s attorney Daniel Meachum. He believes more lawsuits are on the way.


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