Arleen Sorkin, the former co-host on ABC’s “America’s Funniest People,” has slapped the show’s producer with a racial discrimination suit, saying that he let her go because she was white.
The suit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, seeks more than $ 450,000 in damages from “Funniest” producer Vin Di Bona and his Vin Di Bona Prods. It charges that he not only violated California’s public policy against discrimination when he chose not to renew her contract for racial reasons, but that he breached her contract and defamed her.
Sorkin had been a co-host on the show for two years, from 1990-92. According to the terms of her contract, Di Bona Prods. had the option to renew her for the 1992-93 season, court papers said.
Yet on May 11, 1992, Di Bona told Sorkin that he and his company would not renew her contract nor exercise the option to continue her employment. Di Bona told the actress that ABC, through its chairman, Dan Burke, had requested that he replace her with an African-American actress or someone of a different ethnicity, court documents said. ABC has not been named in the suit.
The suit states that Di Bona told Sorkin he “would not have fired (her) were it not for the ethnicity issue.”
While Sorkin was eventually replaced by actress Tawny Kitaen, also white, Sorkin’s suit states that Kitaen’s hiring was merely a change in plans by the producer in order to cover his tracks.
In charging defamation, the suit states that Sorkin’s termination, without good cause, would lead people in the entertainment industry to conclude that she did not perform adequately.
Di Bona’s company officials had no comment on the suit, nor did Sorkin’s attorneys. The $ 450,000 amount named in the suit is for lost earnings related to the remainder of Sorkin’s contract. Suit also seeks other unspecified amounts for damages. Di Bona’s company also produces “America’s Funniest Home Videos.”