A former reporter for The Young Turks (TYT) has filed a racial discrimination claim against the news outlet. Andrew Jerell Jones, who is black, accuses Young Turks founder and CEO Cenk Uygur of telling him that complaints from employees about racial bias in the company were a “fireable offense” and that he should “shut the fuck up and deal.”
Uygur responded to the allegation by informing Buzzfeed News, “The quotes attributed to me in the workplace are completely false.”
Jones filed the complaint with the New York State Division of Human Rights. Jones reportedly alleges that his experience at The Young Turks was different from his white colleagues, citing being given nebulous deadlines as well as no funds for traveling to investigate stories.
Buzzfeed reports, “Jones said that he complained to executives that his boss, Jonathan Larsen, treated other reporters in the ‘TYT Investigates’ group less harshly, and that he faced improper charges of insubordination and poor performance.”
As Buzzfeed reports, Jones claimed that David Koller, one of the founders of TYT, informed him he would investigate his complaint, but he never heard anything from Koller after that. In the official complaint, Jones said another executive did contact Jones and issued a “veiled threat,” saying, “If this all works out you are under Larsen, but he may also discontinue your services.”
Uygur said of Jones, “I thought Andrew was a good guy when he worked here, I’ll leave comments about his work to the legal proceedings. It’s really unfortunate that he has decided to work with a lawyer who has now brought two different, unrelated actions against us. Of course we care a great deal about diversity in the workplace — that is part and parcel of what we do and who we are. We will defend our record and not give into baseless demands.”
Buzzfeed writes that Jones, who said he was initially hired to deal with breaking news and sports but later was shifted to investigative reporting, said he was given a two-week probation while his performance was judged. He also claimed he asked to shift his job to another unit of the newsroom, but that request was denied. Jones asserted that he submitted five story ideas during the probation period, but all were rejected. He said that days after that rejection, he was urged to resign and sign a severance deal that would inhibit him from suing the company for racial discrimination, prompting him to refuse and his subsequent firing.
Jones’ lawyer, Bill Moran, stated, “He complained and said this isn’t working for me, I’m facing racial discrimination. The response he kept getting was you just need to deal with it, this is fine, and if you complain again something bad will happen to you.”
In recent weeks, the Young Turks has come under fire for racist and sexist writing in its past. In December, the Wrap uncovered old blog posts where Uygur wrote demeaning and sexist entries about women and dating. Uygur apologized and called his writings from the early 2000s “insensitive and ignorant.” The Wrap also discovered a 2004 blog post from Koller, where he describes seeing “po’ black people just hanging out in the heat” on a road trip through Memphis. “I mean these negros were the real deal,” Koller wrote. Justice Democrats, a progressive group, cut ties with Uygur and Koller.