Lawsuit says Al Roker ‘callously disregarded’ PBS DEI protocol, then fired complaining director

Famous meteorologist Al Roker is in trouble for allegedly not being beholden enough to the tenets of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI).

The trouble comes courtesy of longtime Hollywood producer Bill Schultz, whose resume includes “The Simpsons” and “King of the Hill.”

Last Monday Schultz sued Roker and his production company, Al Roker Entertainment, alleging that he was fired after he complained that Roker had “callously disregarded” PBS’s DEI protocols while producing an upcoming animated series called “Weather Hunters,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Learn more about the show below:

PBS’ protocols are important because, not only is PBS mostly funding the show, but the show is scheduled to eventually air on PBS.

“PBS provided 70 percent of the project’s financing for 40 half-hour episodes with the stipulation that it adhered to a DEI plan,” The Hollywood Reporter notes.

However, according to Schultz, Roker didn’t take the DEI requirement seriously and instead skirted the rules.

“They saw the use of [Black, Indigenous, and people of color] individuals as a handicap or unwelcome obstacle that could be disregarded if necessary and be evaded or overcome—even if it meant using underhanded and deceptive tactics,” the lawsuit reads. “Further, management at Al Roker Entertainment did not see the PBS DEI mandate as a requirement.”

How did Roker skirt the rules? By allegedly having white writers do the actual writing and black writers just review the white writers’ work.

“Instead of giving the chances to BIPOC writers as had been the plan, the story editor, repeating a strategy previously advocated and backed by Al Roker Entertainment management in writing, wanted to have ‘non-BIPOC’ writers write the stories, and then bring on a ‘BIPOC’ writer and after the stories/episodes [were] shaped, they could be hand[ed] off to BIPOC writers,” the suit continues.

Schultz was not pleased by this.

“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,” his suit reads.

“He and Defendants completely missed the point and, to add insult to injury, the writing he commissioned not only was no better than that of BIPOC writers (some of the best scripts were from the ‘new voices’) but further, showed a lack of sensitivity to the cultural authenticity which was one of the motives for DEI and a major selling point of the Program,” according to the suit.

Schultz, to his credit, did try speaking directly to Roker about this, but Roker allegedly “refused to provide any support to Mr. Schultz or to preserve the compliance and sanctity of the PBS-mandated DEI policy.”

Why does Schultz even care about any of this? Because despite being white, he’s evidently a hardcore DEI advocate.

“Mr. Schultz consistently maintained a vision for staffing and producing the Program with a diverse group of creators and artists and was fully cooperative when PBS took this one step further and made it an absolute contractual mandate as a condition of greenlighting the full production,” the suit reads. “PBS created a DEI policy and made it a contractual requirement for all of its new children’s programs.”

Schultz was eventually served a termination notice in February of 2024 after repeatedly complaining about Roker’s snub of PBS’ DEI rules.

“Following the implementation of the DEI Policy, Defendants attempted to disregard and minimize it and retaliated against Mr. Schultz when he objected to issues surrounding the conduct of Defendants concerning the DEI Policy and race,” the suit reads.

The suit specifically accuses Roker and his company of having “wrongfully and illegally targeted” Schultz who is demanding a trial and $10 million payment for his troubles.

“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 after the filing of his suit.

“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,” he added.

Vivek Saxena

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