Caribbean | Crime | Discrimination | News

St. Maarten Gay Bash Victim Sues, Says CBS Fired Him for Speaking Out

Dick Jefferson, the CBS News producer who was gay bashed with a group of friends in St. Maarten in April 2006, has filed a $50 million lawsuit against CBS, according to Kenneth Walsh of Kenneth in the 212.

JeffersonJefferson says that after the incident he was warned by CBS News Senior Vice President Linda Mason not to speak out about the incident because it was too controversial. After Jefferson suggested to Mason that she was violating the network's anti-discrimination policies, by "controlling what he wrote in his e-mail messages from his personal account, requiring him to ask for permission to testify in open court against his attackers (they were eventually caught and convicted) and banning him from having contact with his friend and colleague, Ryan Smith, who was still hospitalized from the attack," he says she engaged in a systematic campaign of retaliation which eventually led to his being fired.

Reports Walsh: "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. 'Surgeons repaired the damage the criminals did,' Jefferson said. 'Now, it is time to ease the pain and suffering CBS News executives inflicted. I felt like I was attacked again.'"

MasonIn response to Jefferson's plans, CBS released a statement to Fishbowl NY:

"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."

CBS Eye on Homophobia? [kenneth in the 212]
Ex-CBS News Producer To File $50M Sexual-Orientation Discrimination Lawsuit Against Network [fishbowl ny]

TOWLEROAD EXCLUSIVE: St. Maarten Gay Bashing Victim Ryan Smith Speaks About Verdict [tr]
St. Maarten Gay Bash Trial Awaits Ryan Smith [tr]
Lead Attacker in St. Maarten Gay Bashing is Arrested [tr]
St. Maarten Gay Bashing: Two Months Later [tr]
St.Maarten Gay Bashing Case Lost in Translation? [tr]
Update: Arrests Made in St. Maarten Gay Bashing Case [tr]
St. Maarten Gay Bash Update II [tr]
St. Maarten Gay Bash update [tr]
St. Maarten Gay Bash Attack Victim Speaks Out [tr]
Brutal Gay Bashing on St. Maarten [tr]

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  1. Beware of reflexive outrage here...this is a classic he said/she said, and as someone who hates outlandish lawsuits, I'm more than willing to hear CBS out on this one. It certainly was nice of them to airlift him out from his personal vacation.

    Posted by: don | Jun 25, 2007 11:20:13 AM

  2. I agree with you Don. I'm going to do the wait and see on this one. I mean they airlifted him out at the cost to CBS and CBS owns LOGO so I would think they were gay friendly. Plus, this is a news story and you would think CBS would exploit the publicity around this and want him to speak out about.

    Posted by: Matt | Jun 25, 2007 11:35:37 AM

  3. I bet Ms Mason is wearing sensible shoes.

    Posted by: mike flower | Jun 25, 2007 11:37:26 AM

  4. I'm holding off on taking sides, but my sympathies lean more towards the reporter and less towards CBS. It will be interesting to learn more as the case unfolds.

    Right now I hope that both the reporter and his friend are recovering well from the vicious attack they suffered.

    Posted by: Jonathon | Jun 25, 2007 11:40:04 AM

  5. it will be interesting to see what comes out in this story....even during the whole attack story some people who knew jefferson described him as an extremely mean and vindictive person. not to say he doesn't have some sort of case, or that he deserved what happened just that his performance may in fact have played role. i hope for the sake of the larger gay community this isn't some frivoulous attempt to get back at cbs. i mean, why would you spend all this money to bring the guy back from his personal vacation. the story wasn't secret, it was all over the gay press and didn't he do an interview on logo? or the other guy did? we shall see....

    Posted by: Larry | Jun 25, 2007 11:52:59 AM

  6. I had no idea that Janet Reno worked for CBS!

    Posted by: Wayne | Jun 25, 2007 1:22:41 PM

  7. Actually, as I recall, Viacom owns Logo (under it's MTV Networks). CBS used to be part of Viacom, but they split a while ago.

    Anywho, there's alot of info not in this story, so it's pretty hard to have much of an opinion about it.

    Posted by: Tim Wilson | Jun 25, 2007 1:38:10 PM

  8. Doesn't CBS own Logo? I mean, they still use CBS news and everything on the channel refers to CBS.

    Posted by: shane | Jun 25, 2007 1:55:59 PM

  9. Despite all the "I'll wait and see" statements here it seems to me there is already a movement here trying to demean Jefferson's character.

    Posted by: Daniel | Jun 25, 2007 2:17:26 PM

  10. CBS does not own Logo. Logo still airs material from CBS News in a deal which predates the separation of CBS from the rest of Viacom.

    I work for CBS and can say beyond a shadow of a doubt this is the most gay friendly place I have ever worked. Something else has happened here and I find the words "personal account" when referring to email interesting. I suspect Mr. Jefferson is doing a bit of linguistic mumbo-jumbo there, referring to his corporate email as his "personal account." Those threatening emails seem a lot more threatening when it's as opposed to

    Posted by: Mitch | Jun 25, 2007 2:35:57 PM

  11. I'm relieved to see that people are "waiting this one out". We do ourselves a huge injustice when we side with someone simply because he is gay. Hopping on the bandwagon to defend our own can blow up in our faces if we don't have the facts. Too often I have worked with LGBT individuals who "misbehave", then use the "homophobia" defense to try and wrangle a cash settlement from their former employers. We don't know what Jefferson's status with the company (CBS) was prior to the incident. We don't know if Jefferson was a dependable employee. We just know that Jefferson has been dismissed, and that HE claims it was due to homophobia. If CBS was so concerned about Jefferson's public views on his bashing, why on earth would they have airlifted him from the islands at their expense--making themselves more than visible? And, as anyone who has worked in corporate America knows, your corporate e-mail is NOT your personal property--it is the property of the corporation. As one can't send personal mail on company letterhead, one cannot send personal mail on corporate e-mail.

    Posted by: Nathan | Jun 25, 2007 3:11:03 PM

  12. LOGO? You idiots think because some company owns the lame gay cable channel that they give a slice-of-bologna about your rights? It's your wallet they care about kids.

    Oh for the good old days when gays were smart.

    Posted by: Captain America | Jun 25, 2007 3:59:53 PM

  13. Well, I'm glad to see people are waiting things out...whatever that means. Meanwhile someone is out of a job for speaking out.

    Surely there is more to this story. But why the hesitance to believe Jefferson? Why not skepticism towards a sinking television network that's in third place in the ratings and lose more money every week. Katie Couric? She bombed. The sexist country doesn't want their news from a woman.

    Anyway: CBS's response is vituperative (that means "mean") and airlift or not. Who is still employed? The straight bitch? Or the fag?

    Posted by: Brad | Jun 25, 2007 4:04:36 PM

  14. Well someone above said....I'll bet that Mason wears sensible shoes. Your jump to defend Jefferson BEFORE anything real is made public, (other than two press releases, one from each end of this dispute,), reminds me of people who immediatly jump to the defens of minority criminals, just because they are a minority, saying *fuck all* to the crime.

    Eventually, all the facts will be out in this case, then we will know what happened.

    Posted by: Joshua | Jun 25, 2007 5:22:20 PM

  15. sorry but a company spending money to take you to the hosptal when they didn't have to...and yes, even owning a gay tv station does tip the scale towards you in your favor versus some dude whose contract was legitimately up (remember isaiah's contract was up to) saying he got fired 'cause he was black, oops, i mean gay. double standard much?

    Posted by: Larry | Jun 25, 2007 5:39:44 PM

  16. CBS might have behaved well in airlifting him, or they might have been legally advised to help the gay guy as much as possible because minorities sue. I think in this case, my initial sympathies lie with someone who was beaten up and then mysteriously (at least to us) fired. Whichever way it goes, I don't see the point in disparaging either side yet. For one thing, disparaging the attack victim feels like we're trying to deny that a company could fire any of us for anything other than the right reasons. It would be outrageous if CBS did that, but it's happened before countless times. Overly litigious people have sued when they smelled money, too. I don't think this case tilts OBVIOUSLY in either direction yet.

    Posted by: Matthew Rettenmund | Jun 25, 2007 6:03:38 PM

  17. Brad, I believe CBS has the highest network ratings overall, unless you're only referring to their news division.

    Posted by: RJ | Jun 25, 2007 6:40:57 PM

  18. you're right Brad, you've got us....the sinking ship that is losing money everyday is going to spends thousands on some fag that they hate, on the good advice of their attorney only to not re-new his EXPIRED contract because he's gay. yes, it was all a ruse. a cleverly devised plan to secretly not renew his contract.

    Posted by: Linda Mason in the Flesh | Jun 25, 2007 9:09:26 PM

  19. I would like to see this played out in its entirety... and not brushed under the rug once the 'sensational' part of the story has lost its public appeal... a great 48 hrs BTW :)

    Posted by: goobyjow | Jun 25, 2007 11:43:02 PM

  20. Air lifted big deal... CBS was simply posturing themselves for what was to eventually turn ugly. I believe the reporter from a lifetme of seeing that Gays are disposable !

    Posted by: JoeyOh | Jun 26, 2007 2:30:13 AM

  21. CBS News has been turning more and more conservative over the past few years... and it really sucks. It used to be the liberal one, now it's almost as bad as Fox News. My ears almost bled when I heard Katie Couric talk about how the surge was just going swell and how our troops were doing a marvelous job the last time I watched. It was the first time I gave that channel my time in months... and could very well be the last, ever.

    I don't trust them. I don't care if they airlifted a guy out of trouble. Big deal.

    Furthermore, with a company as large as CBS, there are very likely good forces and bad forces within it. That's important to remember - even Clear Channel had good radio programs =p

    I'm not going to rush to conclusions. The truth is often somewhere in the middle. However, I'm certainly not going to defend CBS, because they've done everything in their power to tow the GOP line over the past few years.

    Furthermore, their Press Release was just plain mean and defensive, which makes me think there's more to this than meets the eye.

    Posted by: Ryan | Jun 26, 2007 3:39:25 AM

  22. Air lifted big deal... CBS was simply posturing themselves for what was to eventually turn ugly."

    I agree, and it's a perfectly plausible scenario. Jefferson has justifiably used the case to call for a boycott of the island, and that's definitely incendiary/controversial. I could see how CBS would be annoyed that some "trouble-maker fag" was going be publicly calling for a boycott of a Caribbean island. Especially since there's the issue of race involved as well with the region. The airlift was window-dressing so they could do whatever they wanted with him behind the scenes, away from public view. Knowing that they'd have him by the short hairs, when he was in dire need of retaining his health care.

    Posted by: Johnny | Jun 26, 2007 6:53:12 AM

  23. One should never read the racist ignorant responses to ones comments. (which is why I'm usually smart enough to not comment) But in this case, I work (and live) inside the NY media bubble. And I know a lot more than you idiots.

    CBS News ratings suck. And they have nothing to do with the network owns ratings which are only high "in general" (meaning with old people, not the most valuale market) which is why other networks can make just as much and more money.

    So learn a few things about ratings.

    Also, learn to read. Jeffferson had a year left on his contract when they fired him. He was senior enough to even have a contract, which in this industry means a lot. Most of us news lugs just work day to day.

    The airlift? Who the hell cares? The money didn't come out of Mason's pocket. And can you imagine the bad press if they hadn't helped two (yes, two) employees out of a bad situation? And don't you think that Jefferson could have airlifted himself out? Let's not shed a tear for CBS writing a little check.

    And don't even get me started on all the morons here talking about "minority" employees who are likely to sue. What a bunch of racist crap. So you think minorities are more litigious? REally. Women probably are two. You know how they abuse that maternity leave and take too much time off! Let's get some rules around here.

    And litiguousness in general: oooh what a bad thing. We should all just get fired, get poisoned from careless food processing plants, maybe we should have let the government keep sodomy illegal for a few more decades.

    jesus christ kids, if it weren't for a few important court cases: where the hell would gays be?

    happy gay pride month you conservative racist republicans?

    Posted by: Brad | Jun 26, 2007 8:51:59 AM

  24. Just thought your readers would like to know that there are people down in St. Maarten who are standing up and confronting bigots and homophobes in our community. Like anywhere else, you always have a few nuts and most of them hide it behind religion and many people here think they should respect relgious beliefs.

    Recently we have had them rearing their ugly little heads up over a cruise coming here with a few gay people on it, two blog posts were written about it called Relifious Nuts and Fruits and SMURF's oppose Gaygamel Cruise.

    You can also find all the local newspaper clippings and history of the case filed here.

    We get by on donations, which are very very few, so if any of your readers here care to drop a few pennies it is always welcome.

    Regards to you all - Flipper - SXM PE

    Posted by: Flipper | Jun 26, 2007 10:18:23 AM

  25. Unfortunately the HTML links in my above post don't show. The site is sxmprivateeye dot com.


    Posted by: Flipper | Jun 26, 2007 10:19:59 AM

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