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Former AGT Host Gabrielle Union Files Complaint against NBC Chairman for Alleged Racial Bullying

Claudine Varela
Jun 06, 2020
02:30 A.M.
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Gabrielle Union filed a lawsuit against NBC Entertainment's chairman for allegedly threatening her through her agent to stay silent about her claims of racism on "America's Got Talent."

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Months after departing from “America’s Got Talent” due to racial issues, Gabrielle Union has taken legal action against an NBC official who allegedly threatened her to silence.

Union filed a harassment and discrimination complaint this week directed towards NBC Entertainment Chairman Paul Telegdy claiming he tried to stop her from speaking about the racist climate on the set by threatening her.

Actress Gabrielle Union attends "The Birth Of A Nation" premiere during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. | Photo: Getty Images

Actress Gabrielle Union attends "The Birth Of A Nation" premiere during the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. | Photo: Getty Images

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ON AGT'S TOXIC ENVIRONMENT

Last week, Union opened up for the first time in detail about the toxicity in the show that led to her departure just after one season of being a judge.

According to Union, as early as her first moments on the set, she already felt slighted when series creator and fellow judge, Simon Cowell ignored her complaints about his cigarette smoking that caused her an allergic reaction.

Previously, she also revealed racially-charged incidents involving herself, contestants, and even guest judge Jay Leno.

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LAWSUIT DETAILS

On Thursday, through her attorney, Bryan Freedman, Union filed a complaint with California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing. Apart from Telegdy, she also named Freemantle Media, Cowell’s Syco and NBCUniversal in her lawsuit.

Union’s husband, Dwyane Wade also showed his support by calling out those who doubted his wife when she first spoke out against AGT.

A couple of tweets by journalist Yashar Ali revealed the details included in Union’s lawsuit that focused on the racial bullying she witnessed on AGT.

NBC Entertainment Chairman Paul Telegdy accepting the Gil Nickel Humanitarian Award in April 2018. | Photo: Getty Images

NBC Entertainment Chairman Paul Telegdy accepting the Gil Nickel Humanitarian Award in April 2018. | Photo: Getty Images

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Among them, as revealed by Union’s lawyer, was a claim that Telegdy threatened her to silence through her unnamed agent, preventing her from disclosing the racist environment of the show. Freeman had phone records to prove it.

According to Ali, Cowell’s smoking was also cited as well as an incident involving a 10-year-old Black rapper who was not picked because they needed “a contestant ‘America could get behind.’” Union intends to file a separate lawsuit against Cowell.

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DWYANE WADE'S SUPPORT

In several tweets, Union’s husband, Dwyane Wade also showed his support by calling out those who doubted his wife when she first spoke out against AGT. He re-posted Ali’s tweet and wrote,

“Y’all have deemed her a liar after months of trying to inform y’all of the issues in the work place and also make sure other employees of color that comes after her won’t have the same experiences.”

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In a separate tweet, Wade revealed that the threats were real citing incidences when his home was being watched by people looking for answers.

“Well y’all have the answers and y’all still don’t wanna listen to them,” he said.

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NBC'S RESPONSE

In response to Union’s lawsuit, NBCUniversal sent a statement to Variety deeming her allegations “categorically untrue.”

The company added that it took Union’s issues seriously and even conducted an investigation. NBC also insisted that the company “remains committed to creating an inclusive and supportive working environment.”

Gabrielle Union & Dwyane Wade hugging outside a Hermes store during Paris Fashion Week in June 2017. | Photo: Getty Images

Gabrielle Union & Dwyane Wade hugging outside a Hermes store during Paris Fashion Week in June 2017. | Photo: Getty Images

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UNION'S LAWYER'S REACTION

Union’s lawyer thinks NBC’s response failed to address the actress’ complaint and instead resorted to “word games” by saying Telegdy did not directly threaten his client. He concluded,

“It is frankly sad but not surprising that, rather than addressing its own racial discrimination, NBC wants to try and avoid the systemic issues that permeate its company.”

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