Ex-PBS Producer Says He Was Fired From Al Roker Cartoon for Complaining Show Didn’t Honor DEI Policy

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Television producer William “Bill” Schultz filed a lawsuit against Al Roker, his entertainment company and executive producer Lisa Tucker after he was allegedly fired for standing up against the “denigration” of a DEI policy program that was put in place by PBS in an effort to onboard BIPOC writers onto the upcoming animated children’s series, “Weather Hunters.”

Schultz outlined WeatherHunters, Inc., Al Roker Entertainment, Roker himself and Tucker as defendants in the legal document, which he filed in New York federal court on Monday, April 15 and has been obtained by TheWrap.

In its introduction, Schultz stated he “was wrongfully and illegally targeted, leading to the illegal termination of an agreement that he had with Defendant WHI and its alter ego Al Roker Entertainment in retaliation for Plaintiff standing tall as a whistle blower and complaining of: illegal racial bias and discrimination against African Americans and other Black, indigenous and other people of color (‘BIPOC’ people) in the workplace and for objecting to the denigration and wholesale deconstruction of a diversity, equity and inclusion (‘DEI’) program intended to bring minority writers onto a PBS television production.”

The series, which has a target demographic of Black families, was funded mostly by PBS, though it was completely owned by Al Roker Entertainment.

Schultz added that the DEI program was “mandated” by PBS and “was implemented and administered by Plaintiff at the direction of Defendants” and Al Roker Entertainment executives “callously disregarded” the program’s mission by giving BIPOC writers scripts that were already written and “shaped” by “non-BIPOC” writers.

“This was a deceptive and cynical tactic to give the false appearance of diversity in writing and show ‘numbers’ supporting diversity while side-stepping the effort to recruit, develop and work with BIPOC writers he wrongly and offensively characterized as less capable,” Schultz alleged in the document.

He went on to accuse one of the show’s story editors of stating that the production wouldn’t be able to keep up its schedule if BIPOC writers wrote the stories, claiming that BIPOC writers “sucked” and were inexperienced and “experienced non-BIPOC” writers would need to be hired. The alleged incident took place in August 2023 during a meeting and Schultz was then put on notice that he was in breach of his contract for several matters, including staffing failures.

At one point, Schultz said he informed Roker of the program’s denigration in an effort to get his support. However, Schultz said Roker “refused to provide any support to Mr. Schultz or to preserve the compliance and sanctity of the PBS-mandated DEI policy.”

In his statement, Schultz — who is represented Frost LLP — said his years’ worth of work on the series is a reflection of his belief in the series’ potential impact on children.

“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,” Schultz said in a statement. “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.”

“Weather Hunters” was announced in January. The series, which features 22-minute episodes, explores “kid-relatable STEM-based activities and themes, highlighting the wonder of weather within the broad field of science in terms that all learners can understand.”

In a 2023 statement about the series, Roker called the project a “labor of love.”

“Weather Hunters has been a labor of love and a passion project for more than a decade and I cannot think of a better partner than PBS Kids to make this dream come true,” Roker said. “When it comes to ‘Weather Hunters,’ I predict increasing animation with downpours of family friendly storytelling and a rising understanding of weather and climate on your local PBS station, pbskids.org, and the PBS Kids Video and Games apps.”

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.

The post Ex-PBS Producer Says He Was Fired From Al Roker Cartoon for Complaining Show Didn’t Honor DEI Policy appeared first on TheWrap.