Philly.com writes that A reverse racial-discrimination suit that involves use of the N-word filed by a white, former Philadelphia news anchor may finally be heading to a federal courtroom.
Tom Burlington, an award-winning TV reporter, claims he was fired by WTXF Fox29 for using the N-word -- without malice -- during a newsroom meeting, while black employees were not punished for using the same word at the station.
The case has been delayed multiple times. Days before it was supposed to go to trial in January 2011, attorneys for Fox successfully argued that the case should wait until the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on a similar case. The court ruled in favor of that plaintiff two months later, but Burlington’s suit continued to languish for four more years.
U.S. District Judge R. Barclay Surrick, noting the case had been stalled long enough, wrote last month in a memorandum that “[w]e will not further delay its resolution by permitting ‘piecemeal review and its attendant delays and waste of time.’ ”
A trial date could be set as soon as Friday, according to court officials. Court records give the following account of the case:
Burlington used the reviled word in a June 23, 2007 staff meeting as Fox reporters and producers discussed a story about the symbolic burial of the very same N-word by the Philadelphia Youth Council of the NAACP. During the mock funeral -- complete with pallbearers, a casket, and a eulogy -- the epithet reportedly was spoken at least 100 times.
During the discussion about the story, Burlington, who was scheduled to co-anchor the evening news that night, asked the question that would destroy his career.
“Does this mean we can finally say the word n-----?” Burlington asked. One of the show’s producers, who is black, exclaimed, “I can’t believe you just said that!”
The discussion proceeded. The word was not used on the broadcast that night.
But gossip that Burlington had uttered the word during the meeting immediately rippled through the station. His co-anchor, Joyce Evans, who is black and had not attended the staff meeting, confronted Burlington.
Asked on Tuesday if she had a comment about the case, Joyce Evans said “I have absolutely none.”
Evans remains the anchor of the weekend “Fox 29 News at Six.” The year after Burlington was fired, The Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists named her “Broadcast Journalist of the Year.”