Despite a detailed complaint from Gabrielle Union over alleged misconduct on and off the set of America’s Got Talent, a parsing NBC said Thursday that NBC Entertainment chairman Paul Telegdy never directly threatened the former judge on the Simon Cowell-created series.
“The allegation that anyone involved in this process threatened Ms. Union is categorically untrue,” the Comcast-owned net said in a statement today, hours after Union’s harassment, discrimination and retaliation filing with California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing became public.
“We took Ms. Union‘s concerns seriously, and engaged an outside investigator who found an overarching culture of diversity on the show,” NBC added. “NBCUniversal remains committed to creating an inclusive and supportive working environment where people of all backgrounds are treated with respect.”
Likely heading toward a lawsuit or arbitration, Cowell, Universal TV, Syco Entertainment and Fremantle Productions North America are all named in Union’s complaint to the state agency.
The complaint also claims that Telegdy did directly call Union’s reps at CAA in February in what is characterized as an effort to allegedly “threaten and intimidate” the actor from pursuing her claims of racism on AGT. Not addressing additional claims in the complaint that the probe was incomplete and mishandled, today’s NBC statement also overlooks the serious claims that Telegdy breached corporate Code of Conduct rules. The executive is also said to have spoken about the investigation into Union’s allegations of “racist and misogynistic conduct” on AGT with “A-list talent with whom NBC was looking to hire” and others
When asked about the absence of such issues from its statement, an NBC spokesperson told Deadline there would be “nothing further as we don’t comment on pending legal matters.”
In point of fact, today’s statement from the home of AGT is actually in regards to words from Union’s lawyer and longtime NBC foil Bryan Freedman earlier Thursday, not the actually filing, I hear. It’s a point the veteran attorney made in his own response today to NBC’s response.
“It’s very telling that NBC fails to substantively address the DFEH complaint that Ms. Union filed based on racial discrimination,” Freedman said. “Instead, NBC wants to try and play word games by saying that their Chairman Paul Telegdy did not directly threaten Gabrielle Union,” he adds.
“NBC of course ignores Paragraph 5 of the DFEH complaint which specifically states: On or about February 4, 2020, Telegdy threatened Union through her agent and warned Union’s agent that Union had better cease from pursuing her claims of racism while filming AGT.”
“To hide behind the fact that Telegdy did not call her directly but her agent instead does not absolve him from his wrongful conduct,” Freedman goes on to say. “Should Mr. Telegdy wish to see phone records or call sheets from the date of his threat, we can make those available for the world to see. It is frankly sad but not surprising that, rather than addressing its own racial discrimination, NBC wants to try and avoid the systemic issues that permeate its company.”
Earlier today, the lawyer had more blunt words for the situation.
“In sharp contrast to NBC’s recent statement on race, what was truly an “outrage” was the fact that Paul Telegdy, Chairman of NBC Entertainment, actually threatened Ms. Union in an attempt to silence her from telling the truth about racist actions that took place on the show,” Freedman said in his previous and now contested statement. “There is no place for this type of racial bullying in the workplace, and it is going to take more than a Tweet from NBC to demonstrate that NBC intends to create an environment free from racism,” the Century City-based attorney added.
Late last month, long after Union was fired from AGT on November 22, 2019 after just one season at the judge’s table, NBC and AGT producers put out a statement on their investigation over what may or may not have gone down during Union’s tenure as a judge.
“Through the investigation process, it has been revealed that no one associated with the show made any insensitive or derogatory remarks about Ms. Union’s appearance, and that neither race nor gender was a contributing factor in the advancement or elimination of contestants at any time,” the Comcast-owned net, Fremantle and Syco declared on May 27. “The investigation has shown that the concerns raised by Ms. Union had no bearing on the decision not to exercise the option on her contract.”
Today’s DFEH filing took NBC and the other AGT parties to task for alleged misconduct with a timely reference to some very real-world occurrences happening right now.
“Instead of taking Union’s complaints seriously and using them as a catalyst for real meaningful change, Telegdy, NBC, Fremantle and Syco seek to blame the victim, Union, in order to maintain the status quo,” Thursday’s detailed paperwork says. “The steps that Telegdy, NBC, Fremantle and Syco have employed to silence Union and to cover up racial discrimination on the set of AGT stands in stark contrast to the current worldwide efforts to eradicate racism through the Black Lives Matter protests and movement.
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