WAMU senior managing editor Zuri Berry has filed a defamation lawsuit in DC Superior Court against the publication Current, American University, which operates Current as well as WAMU, and six people, including journalists at various news organizations, over an article Current published in July titled “WAMU licensee investigates editor blamed for departures of women of color.”
Berry is seeking $10 million in damages. The people named in his suit are Sasha Fernandez, who reported the Current article, Current managing editor Karen Everhart and executive director Julie Drizin, as well as WAMU reporter Sasha-Ann Simons, NPR reporter Alana Wise, and former WAMU staffer Letese’ Clark.
According to this lawyers, Berry claims that Simons, Wise, and Clark “conspired to defame [him] through the publication of false statements.” Simons, Berry alleges, made “false statements” in a letter read during a meeting this past July at WAMU following public statements from staffers about what they considered to be WAMU’s diversity issues. Berry contends that Simons, Clark, and Wise were Fernandez’s sources for her Current article about him, and claims Current reported he was the subject of “multiple complaints” when he says there were only two.
He acknowledges that American University placed him on administrative leave in August while it investigated accusations that he “created a hostile work environment based on gender and race” and says that he’s been unable to find another job. Interviews at one of the DC area’s news stations, he says, ended after a manager presented him with the Current article.
In a statement, Berry says he hopes “the legal process will help illuminate WAMU’s problems, sort fact from fiction, and give pause to those at the organization who have participated in the spread and amplification of this malicious gossip.” Current‘s managers did not immediately respond to a request for comment. American University does not comment on lawsuits, its spokesperson Lisa Stark says.
Here’s the complaint: