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Ex-CBS News Producer To File $50M Sexual-Orientation Discrimination Lawsuit Against Network

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CBS Calls Suit ‘Vicious And Unconscionable’ Attack

Richard Jefferson, a former CBS News producer who was brutally attacked while vacationing in St. Martin last year in a gay-bashing incident, is set to file a $50 million sexual-orientation discrimination lawsuit against CBS News, FishbowlNY has learned.

Jefferson alleges that senior vice president Linda Mason tried to control his public comments in the wake of the attack, and wound up terminating him.

CBS plans to “vigorously and aggressively” defend itself, according to a statement obtained by FishbowlNY late Sunday.

“I thought I was in the Twilight Zone,” Jefferson told blogger Kenneth Walsh recently. “I was back at work and simply seeking justice. You can get attacked by a bunch of thugs anywhere, but the St. Martin police turned their heads — not because we were gay, but because we were tourists. I thought I was doing the right thing, but CBS made me feel like I was doing something wrong.”

CBS says Jefferson’s suit “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.”

The suit also names Patricia Shevlin, executive producer of CBS News Weekend. Jefferson alleges that CBS required him to ask for permission to testify in open court against his attackers and banned him from having contact with colleague Ryan Smith, who was still hospitalized from the attack.

CBS News’ statement to FishbowlNY via network spokesperson Sandra Genulius:

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.

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