A Closer Look At Jefferson Lawsuit

Anti-Gay Discrimination at CBS?

On Friday we mentioned that former CBS producer Dick Jefferson’s filing a lawsuit against the network. Jefferson alleges CBS News Senior Vice President Linda Mason and CBS News Weekend executive producer Patricia Shevlin tried to muzzle him after Jefferson’s anti-gay attack in St. Marteen.

Jefferson and another CBS employee, Ryan Smith, were vacationing on the Caribbean island back in 2006 when a man named “Duracell” and his homo-hating friends beat them with a tire iron. Both men were severely injured. Upon their return, Jefferson claims, CBS attempted to keep things quiet.

Kenneth in the (212) elaborates:

It was at this point, Jefferson, who had a titanium plate put in his skull in order to recover, alleges that CBS News Senior Vice President Linda Mason began issuing a series of orders to control his public comments about his personal vacation nightmare. Jefferson says senior CBS News executives had decided that because of its “sensitive nature,” the assault was too “controversial.”

When Jefferson spoke out against Mason, he says, she not-so-vaguely threatened his long-standing position at CBS, saying that she “makes the rules”.

When he first complained about the corporate interference in his personal life, Jefferson says Mason warned him that she could force him to take a leave of absence — which would cause him to lose not only pay but critical health care insurance — if he continued to pursue his “gay rights” cause. After his complaint of discrimination, Jefferson says Mason embarked on a retaliation campaign. Within weeks, she attempted to terminate his contract. Failing her first attempt, he says she began a fishing expedition, and built a fraudulent case against him, placed him on probation and then ultimately fired him.

Now Jefferson’s filed a $50 million suit against CBS.

The network, however, insists it did nothing wrong:

The complaint that a press release from Dick Jefferson states he will file on Monday (25) is unequivocally baseless. Mr. Jefferson was terminated at the conclusion of his employment agreement due to legitimate issues with his performance that had been previously discussed with him. His allegations that Linda Mason discriminated against him could not be further from the truth. This complaint reveals a stunningly selective recall of the “facts,” both real and imagined, including omission of the extraordinary lengths to which CBS News and, specifically, Ms. Mason, went to airlift him to safety and better medical treatment–at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars paid for by the Company–after the attack, which Mr. Jefferson suffered while on a personal vacation. Additionally, contrary to Mr. Jefferson’s claims, CBS News also supported Mr. Jefferson’s right to discuss the attack publicly and to seek justice, which he clearly did. CBS policy forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation, and the company regularly educates its workforce about complying with that and other employment policies prohibiting discrimination and harassment. We will vigorously and aggressively defend ourselves against Mr. Jefferson’s unwarranted complaint and his regrettably vicious and unconscionable attack on Ms. Mason’s character.

While not a lesbian herself, Mason’s been a vocal advocate of gay rights. Or so she says…

Mason, who’s worked at CBS for over 40 years, told AfterElton that she strives to make the workplace as welcoming as possible, “…We’ve labored very hard to make it so. And I’ve been told by some of my gay colleagues that it’s a good place to work.” She also explains that she whole-heartedly supports the coming out process:

I’m not gay … but I’ve been told by gay people it’s a tremendous thing to come to grips with the fact you are gay, and then to come out to friends and family, and then maybe at the workplace. So to take it to the next step [with the public] is huge. And I can’t even presume to talk about it.

Could it be that Mason discarded her gay loving ways to keep Jefferson quiet? Or is Jefferson playing a game of legal revenge.

Also, Jefferson’s suit claims CBS fired him for trying to speak out about his attack. How, we wonder, can that be classified as “sexual orientation discrimination”? Of course, that’s the least of the questions in this queer case of she said, he (didn’t) said…

This isn’t the first time the issue’s come up. A CBS viewer previously questioned the network’s lack of coverage, to which CBS’ Public Eye replied:

Decisions about what is aired are province of the executive producer of each individual program and, if they’re doing their jobs, they must look at every story as a news judgment. Does this story fit my broadcast, fit my idea of news, belong on my show? That’s not to say a story isn’t a story – there are thousands of stories that go untold by every news organization every day. It’s whether a particular story belongs, and many times that is simply a judgment call.

The fact that Jefferson and Smith work for CBS News should be irrelevant when it comes to making that judgment in this case. The question is not does CBS care enough about their employees to cover the story? It is instead: would they do so if this happened to anybody else? Every year, thousands of people are assaulted simply because of their sexual orientation – or their race, or ethnicity or other biases. What makes this particular instance so newsworthy? Because they work for the network?

We can understand their point, but we’d also like to point out that ABC offered endless coverage after an IED nearly killed their anchor, Bob Woodruff. Not the same situation, no, but does provide an example of a network covering their own employees. In fact, it seems as if CBS would want to cover this story. As they mentioned, thousands of gays are attacked each year. The proximity of the story, then, should provide more urgency, a convenient jumping off point and a nice, personal twist. But what do we know?