Hearst Tries to Get Former Anchor's Discrimination Suit Tossed

WTAE (Pittsburgh) owner Hearst Television filed a claim to get fired Anchor Wendy Bell's case tossed from court. 

Bell made the claim that she wouldn't have been fired for posting opinions about the background and race of the Wilkinsburg massacre suspects if she were black.

Hearest says the caseshould be thrown out because that claim is speculation.

Hearst says Bell had presented no facts to bolster her claim that WTAE considered race when it fired her in March or that black employees were treated more favorably in similar circumstances.

Hearst said Bell’s complaint should be dismissed “because it is long on speculation and accusation, but short on any factual support for those accusations.”

The motion is a routine step in such federal discrimination cases.

The Pittsburgh Post Gazette reports that WTAE fired Bell, Hearst said, not because of her race but because she made “racially charged commentary in a post on WTAE’s company-sponsored Facebook page” that was “inconsistent with the company’s ethics and journalistic standards.”

The company also said several examples she cited of other employees not being punished for their behavior are not similar to her case and not relevant to what she did.

Bell made the comments following the March 9 shooting deaths of five people and an unborn child at a Wilkinsburg cookout. She was fired March 30 and filed suit in June.

Her lawyer, Sam Cordes, said Hearst’s motion is baseless because it ignores two recent decisions by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, both involving cases from the Western District of Pennsylvania, that he said rejected the requirement that a plaintiff in a discrimination case must cite specific facts to show a defendant’s state of mind.

“State of mind can be inferred from the situation,” Cordes said.

He said Hearst’s motion doesn’t acknowledge the legal precedent set by the appellate court and “just tries to hoodwink the court by pretending those cases do not exist.”