Former Producer Sues Al Roker: Weather Forecast Calls For $10 Million Storm

By Greg Moriarty | Monday, 22 April 2024 09:20 PM
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Al Roker, the renowned "Today" show anchor, and his firm, Al Roker Entertainment, are facing a lawsuit filed on Tuesday.

The lawsuit, filed by former executive producer Bill Schultz, alleges that the company failed to adhere to a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) mandate. Schultz claims he was "wrongfully and illegally targeted" for dismissal in 2023 after he criticized the company's lack of compliance with a diversity initiative, as per a court document published by The Hollywood Reporter.

The lawsuit contends that Al Roker Entertainment "callously disregarded" a DEI program by PBS, which required Schultz's animated series "Weather Hunters" to include Black writers. Schultz alleges that the company sought to circumvent the mandate by having Black writers merely revise scripts penned by White writers, rather than employing Black staff writers.

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The lawsuit states, "Instead of giving the chances to BIPOC writers as had been the plan, the story editor, repeating a strategy previously advocated and backed by Al Roker Entertainment management in writing, wanted to have ‘non-BIPOC’ writers write the stories, and then bring on a ‘BIPOC’ writer and after the stories/episodes [were] shaped, they could be ‘hand[ed] off to BIPOC writers.'"

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Schultz claims that after a Black producer was reprimanded for opposing this approach, he voiced his support for the DEI policy and communicated his views to Roker and other executives. Subsequently, he received a notice accusing him of what the lawsuit describes as "fabricated" contractual breaches, leading to his suspension and eventual dismissal.

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The lawsuit further alleges, "They saw the use of ‘BIPOC’ individuals as a handicap or unwelcome obstacle that could be disregarded if necessary and be evaded or overcome—even if it meant using underhanded and deceptive tactics." It also accuses Al Roker Entertainment's management of treating the PBS DEI mandate as a mere formality, to be fulfilled in the most expedient way possible.

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Despite PBS providing the majority of the funding for the show, Schultz asserts that Al Roker Entertainment had "total authority" over the series, implying it was responsible for all decisions. Schultz is seeking $10 million in damages and attorneys' fees from Roker and his company.

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In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, Schultz said, "I put nine years of my career into ‘Weather Hunters,' a project I strongly believe in, with the goal of making a wonderfully crafted show for children to enjoy and learn from. I also believed, and still believe, that the project benefited by creating opportunities for the ‘new voices’ crucial in storytelling and that the ‘Weather Hunters’ production needed to live up to the ideals it was supposed to represent."

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