Two white NBC cameramen have filed a $2 million lawsuit claiming ”Tonight Show” bandleader Questlove had them fired after they received a racist text while he protected a black staffer who got the same message.
Kurt Decker and Michael Cimino were allegedly fired “on the basis of the color of their skin” over the incident on June 19, 2017 when an unnamed stagehand on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” sent them an “unsolicited racist and misogynist text,” the New York Post’s Page Six reported.
A bassist for The Roots, Fallon’s house band which is led by drummer Questlove, also received the offensive message.
Decker and Cimino were “shocked to receive it and repulsed by its content” according to the lawsuit, filed in New York Supreme Court on Wednesday. The pair were taping when they received the text which included “a piece of fried chicken with a bite out of it along with a racial slur that inevitably depicts African-Americans,” their attorney Richard Roth told the Post.
The cameramen did not respond to the text, which was also sent to bassist Mark Kelley, but informed their superiors, Roots manager Keith McPhee and NBC technical production manager Bryan King. The next day, the men were suspended.
“Kelley, who is African-American, was not,” the lawsuit stated.
Decker and Cimino allege in the suit that “NBC acquiesced to Questlove’s overtly discriminatory demand,” and had the men fired despite the frontman’s own history of making controversial remarks such as mocking Japanese accents on Instagram in 2013 which forced him to make a public apology.
The cameramen, who had a combined 40 years of “spotless performance” with NBC according to the suit, could not even defend themselves against accusations of bigotry because they were prohibited by the network from discussing the incident and their firing with any former NBC colleagues.
“Simply put, Plaintiffs were terminated because they are Caucasian,” the suit stated.
“Failure to report the inappropriate text was one of the policies violated by the plaintiffs,” a network source said, according to the Post, although both men claim they did.
“We have strong policies in place that protect against discrimination in any form. The decision about these plaintiffs was the company’s alone,” an NBC spokeswoman said.
The lawsuit’s allegations were slammed as “ridiculous” by a spokeswoman for Questlove.
“Questlove denies the ridiculous allegations made in this lawsuit,” Carleen Donovan said, according to the Post. “Racism is REAL and exists throughout the world and for these gentlemen to claim victim is not only disrespectful to Questlove and his band mates, but to all that truly endure racism on a daily basis. As NBC already stated, the decisions made regarding these employees were made by NBC, alone.”
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