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‘Scud Stud’ Kent drops $ 25 mil lawsuit on NBC

Arthur Kent, former NBC news foreign correspondent nicknamed the “Scud Stud” for his reporting during the Persian Gulf War, launched a $ 25 million missile yesterday aimed at NBC and the offices of its executive brass.

Kent’s much-talked-about exit from NBC last August–the net fired him after he refused to take an assignment to Zagreb–has finally landed in court, with the reporter filing a breach-of-contract suit that asserts network exex had conspired to get rid of him by setting up a “suicide” mission.

Among those named in the suit are Michael Gartner, president of the news division; Donald Browne, exec VP of the news division; David Verdi, head of news operations; Alex Benes, an officer of NBC in the news division; Steve Friedman, exec producer of the “NBC Nightly News” and exec in charge of “Dateline NBC”; Jeffrey Diamond, exec producer of “Dateline NBC”; and Peggy Hubble, corporate spokesperson for NBC and NBC News.

The suit, filed in federal court, said that when Kent and others from his crew refused the Zagreb assignment, which he contends was ultimately to end up in war-torn Bosnia with a U.N. inspection team, he was terminated.

“If NBC had just terminated him, there would have been a contract dispute but it would have been over,” noted his attorney, Brian C. Lysaght of O’Neill & Lysaght. “Instead, they circulated anonymous comments to the press accusing him of being a coward, which is inexcusable ….”

Ironically, he currently is on assigment in Bosnia freelance reporting on the Yugoslavian civil war.

“When NBC tried to send him to Bosnia, it was with only 24 hours notice,” Lysaght said. “Usually you have to do a lot of preparation for these kinds of trips. But there was no advance planning. It would have been a suicide mission.”

NBC contends it only intended to send Kent to Zagreb, which is 200 miles from Bosnia and reported to be stable.

NBC officials had no comment about Kent’s suit, but a source alleged his refusal to go to Zagreb was the “catalyst” for his suspension, but that his firing was due to a much larger in-house dispute.

Kent alludes to that dispute in his suit, which dates back to NBC’s decision last December to move Kent from the “NBC Nightly News” to its new show “Dateline.”

Problems erupted when several of Kent’s stories did not appear on “Dateline.”

Lysaght said when his client requested to go back to “NBC Nightly News” as the senior European correspondent, net exex refused and offered him a “regular line corespondent” position.

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