A former Al Jazeera America employee has sued the news cabler for wrongful termination, claiming he was fired after complaining about anti-Semitic and sexist behavior by a senior executive.
Matthew Luke filed suit Tuesday in New York Supreme Court, claiming that Al Jazeera America exec Osman Mahmud has expressed anti-Semitic statements and taken discriminatory actions against female employees. Luke’s suit claims that after he complained about Mahmud’s behavior to human resources in February, he was fired 10 days later.
Luke had served as AJA’s supervisor of media and archive management since May 2013, before the news channel formally launched on what had been Current TV.
The suit seeks $5 million in compensatory damages and another $10 million in punitive damages. Mahmud is named as a defendant along with AJA.
AJA said it would not comment on pending litigation. But in a statement it added: “The company takes these matters seriously and will respond in the appropriate forum. Al Jazeera America’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is fundamental to its mission, and is boldly reflected throughout the company: in its staff, its leadership and its programming.”
The complaint claims that Mahmud, who was recently promoted to senior VP of broadcast operations and technology, went out of his way to exclude women from key meetings and to replace female employees with men in key roles.
Most explosively, the suit claims that Mahmud made anti-Semitic remarks including the statement “whoever supports Israel should die a fiery death in hell.”
The suit also claims that AJA executives exhibited an “anti-American” bias in recent months as key executives recruited for the U.S. operation were replaced with Middle Eastern execs from the parent Al Jazeera org, which is based in Qatar and funded by an offshoot of the state government.
The picture of anti-American activity painted in the complaint is sure to be fodder for AJA critics who have blasted the channel from the start as being connected to terrorist and Islamist fundamentalist orgs in the Middle East. Al Jazeera has long maintained that its goal was to build a credible and objective newsgathering operation in the U.S. as a linchpin of its global news network.