Tom Burlington was a White anchor for Fox29 in Philadelphia. During a 2007 staff meeting discussion on race and the “burial” of the “the n-word,” Burlington used the n-word twice. He was first suspended and then fired some eight months later. Burlington is suing Fox News.
According to Burlington, he and colleagues at WTXF Fox 29 were in a planning meeting on July 23, 2007 discussing reporter Robin Taylor’s story on the NAACP symbolic “burial” of a certain racial slur. In the report, Taylor refers to the slur as the “n-word.” Burlington disagreed with the use of the phrase claiming it “ultimately gives the word itself more power.” He proceeded to use the actual word twice during the meeting.
After noticing that an African American news producer was uncomfortable, he apologized. Later, a co-worker told him that he had offended others and he gave the sorry speech to everyone that was in the meeting claiming that he “did not in any way intend his use of the word to be offensive,” reports the [Philadelphia] Inquirer.
Odd thing, the links in the NBC article leading to the Philadelphia Inquirer are not working.
Tom Burlington claims he was a victim of reverse discrimination, in being terminated for asking whether it was okay to use “nigger” on the air in a story about the NAACP in Philadelphia holding a symbolic burial for the word. His co-anchor, Joyce Evans, who is African-American, confronted Burlington after the meeting, allegedly telling him he was being insensitive about trying to use the n-word. Evans was not actually present at the meeting.
Burlington again used the word at a meeting with management to describe what happened during the newsroom discussion. He was then suspended, and fired three days later.
The case has the potential to be a controversial one because it touches on the issue of why it is acceptable for black people say “nigger”, but not acceptable for white people to use the same word…
An African-American employee, John Jervay, used the word “nigger” three times in an email to management describing what Burlington had done. Because Jervay was not disciplined, Surrick ruled that a jury could reasonably conclude that WTXF’s management had engaged in race-based discrimination.
The trial begins on January 18th. Read more about Tom Burlington and the Fox lawsuit here.