Honored producer files $50 million gay-bashing lawsuit
by Wayne Besen
Former CBS News Senior Broadcast Producer Dick Jefferson.
NEW YORK CITY — Fired CBS News Senior Broadcast Producer Dick Jefferson — almost murdered in a “barbaric” gay bashing by tire wrench while on vacation last spring — has filed a $50 million lawsuit against CBS News alleging executives bashed him even more viciously than he had been in the St. Maarten attack before firing him.
“I thought I was in the twilight zone. I was back at work, simply seeking justice in St. Maarten, demanding that island authorities not ignore violent crimes against tourists — gay or straight. But some of my bosses made me feel like I was doing something wrong. I felt like I was attacked again,” Jefferson said.
In St. Maarten an ex-convict named Duracell smashed Jefferson’s skull with a tire wrench because he was gay. In New York, a senior vice president named Mason smashed Jefferson’s distinguished 18-year CBS career with discrimination and fraud because he wanted his attackers pursued, according to the 30-page complaint filed in New York State Supreme Court.
Even before Jefferson returned from his vacation-from-hell permanently disfigured with a titanium plate in his head instead of a tan, “senior-level” CBS News executives had concluded the unprovoked assault on Jefferson and another employee was somehow “controversial” because of “sensitive issues” involved.
“For CBS to think there were some sort of ‘sensitive issues’ involved in this ambush only revealed their deeply-rooted bias against homosexuals,” Jefferson charged, “No matter how hard you work, how much glory you bring, you are still gay — and something else must have gone on.”
CBS News Senior Vice President Linda Mason, who is also named individually in the lawsuit, maliciously thought Jefferson was not a crime victim seeking justice, but a “gay rights” advocate. That biased conclusion prompted Mason to threaten Jefferson with a forced leave of absence if he continued his “advocacy,” and to prohibit public comments about his personal vacation nightmare without prior approval.
On June 13, 2006, Mason went so far as to censor a personal email to the media that Jefferson wanted to send when he got word his assailant had surrendered. Mason thought Jefferson’s calling his attackers “animals” was not proper, and that the sentence, “I certainly did not choose to be beaten within a millimeter of my life just for being gay,” was controversial. Mason insisted both be deleted before he could send the rest of the message.
He complied, but during a meeting the next day, Jefferson asked Mason if she would do the same thing if an African-American employee had been attacked, or a woman raped?
“Are you accusing me of discrimination?” Mason exploded. Then, she glared at Jefferson and sternly reminded him that she “makes the rules.”
New York State and New York City prohibit discrimination based upon sexual orientation and retaliation for complaints alleging discrimination. New York Labor Law §201(d) also protects individuals from workplace discrimination based on non-work related leisure activities and relationships.
Ironically, Mason is the CBS News Division executive in charge of enforcing the corporate policy that CBS will not tolerate any form of harassment on account of sexual orientation. Yet Mason not only ignored Jefferson’s complaint of discrimination, she retaliated against him for making it.
Within weeks, she attempted to have the award-winning senior broadcast producer terminated. Failing her first attempt, she began a fishing expedition for complaints, built a fraudulent case against Jefferson and placed him on probation.
“I loved CBS News and believed in it. I couldn’t believe that new executives who are supposed to be protecting the truth were making up lies,” Jefferson said.
Warned that a single complaint — legitimate or not — would end his distinguished career, Jefferson asked bluntly if he would be fired for reprimanding some of his staff on Aug. 27, 2006, for their lack of effort during a breaking news event. He was told absolutely, “No,” by his executive producer Patricia Shevlin, who was also named individually in the lawsuit.
That was only because Mason’s retaliation had to be put on hold. Jefferson was too critical to CBS News to fire in early September. He was the sole person who knew all the preparation details of the highly technical systems that would be used on election night, Katie Couric’s first as anchor of CBS News.
Induced to believe his job was still secure, Jefferson worked non-stop until the election, including 200 hours in the last 10 days alone, was praised “for holding things together” and personally thanked by Couric for the success of her inaugural election night.
Two days later, still suffering from extreme exhaustion, Jefferson’s physician ordered him to the emergency room for treatment. CBS News executives encouraged him to take a full week to recover before returning to work. The day he did, Nov. 20, 2006, Mason fired him based upon the “incident” from nearly three months before despite being assured he would not be fired.
“The judge in St. Maarten went out of his way to say my attackers — strangers I didn’t even know — were driven by discrimination and contempt for other people, found them guilty and sentenced them to prison. Turns out my bosses — friends I had known for years — had more contempt and did more damage. I’m sure a New York jury will be just as wise as that St. Maarten judge,” Jefferson added.