Tatsha Robertson, People magazine’s only black editor until she was fired in May, has filed a lawsuit against the magazine alleging that the publication is biased against blacks and that she was treated like a second-class citizen.
According to New York’s Daily News, which has viewed the lawsuit, Robertson, 48, alleges that there were only five blacks employed by the magazine out of 110 employees.
She also claimed that People is “a discriminatory organization run entirely by white people who intentionally focus the magazine on stories involving white people and white celebrities,” the Daily News notes.
Robertson, who had come to People from Essence magazine in 2010, alleges in her lawsuit that then-Executive Editor Betsy Gleick, who was also fired in May, told her, “You need to talk like everyone else here. You’re not at Essence anymore.”
She claims that Gleick also said that an African-American model who had been recently killed looked like a “slut” and discouraged Robertson’s pitches about black people. “You know the rule: white suburban women in distress,” Gleick reportedly said, according to the suit, the Daily News reports.
A representative for the magazine told the Daily News, “People declines to comment.”
According to the lawsuit, it was a rarity for the magazine to feature African Americans on the cover, and even in special cases like Trayvon Martin’s death, ” … Ms. Gleick was completely obsessed with attempting to unearth any potential negative fact about him before doing so.” The suit also alleges that “Ms. Gleick repeatedly questioned whether he was a ‘good kid,’ yet never made efforts to vet white victims of crime.”
According to the lawsuit, People magazine has featured only 14 African Americans out of 265 covers since 2010, and since 1990, “only three individuals selected as the ‘Most Beautiful Person’ have been black, out of 25 selections,” the Daily News reports.
“The media has a responsibility to report and act with integrity. People magazine has betrayed that responsibility by engaging in discrimination, both in its pages and through its employment practices,” Robertson’s lawyer, David Gottlieb of Wigdor LLP, told the Daily News.
According to the lawsuit, now that the sole black editor has been let go, “One can only imagine that it will be ‘business as usual’ at People Magazine going forward—more white people on covers, more stories about white people, and a completely dismissive attitude towards African-American employees,” the Daily News notes.