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Sunday, May 26, 2024
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WAMU editor sues University, student for defamation in $10 million lawsuit

Managing editor with AU’s radio station is suing the University, WAMU staff and Current, an SOC publication, staff.

The Eagle’s Editor-in-Chief Sophie Austin and News Managing Editor Kelsey Carolan did not edit this piece because both have a personal affiliation with Sasha Fernandez.

A WAMU editor is suing American University for defamation, invasion of privacy and contract interference after an article by Current, a School of Communication publication, reported that the editor was under investigation by the University and that he caused women of color to leave WAMU.

Zuri Berry, a senior managing editor for AU’s public radio station, WAMU, is suing WAMU staffers, Current editors and AU student, Sasha Fernandez, who interned for Current and wrote the article that Berry alleges is defamatory.

Berry is suing the defendants for $10 million in damages, and asking Current to retract their article and publicly apologize.

The lawsuit states, “Current negligently published an article defaming Mr. Berry’s character” by using three anonymous sources and reporting that women of color left the station because of Berry’s behavior.

The lawsuit describes that only two women, defendants Letese’ Clark and Alana Wise, worked with Berry and left WAMU after performance issues. Berry’s lawsuit states that WAMU reporter Sasha-Ann Simons, another defendant in the suit, gave Fernandez the false information about Berry’s behavior, and Current Editor Karen Everhart and Executive Director Julie Drizin, both defendants, conspired with WAMU employees to defame Berry.

None of the defendants responded to initial requests for comment by time of publication.

The University investigated Berry after complaints accused him of “unprofessional conduct and behavior that created a hostile work environment based on gender and race,” the lawsuit states.

Berry is currently on administrative leave because of the investigation.

The lawsuit also claims that Berry suffered a loss of employment opportunities after the Current article was published. 

“Defendants knew that their statements against Plaintiff Berry were false and published them regardless and the publications were made with malicious intent,” the lawsuit states.

Sandra Rodriguez, an AU spokesperson, told The Eagle that the University does not comment on pending lawsuits.

In a statement provided in an email to The Eagle from his lawyer, David A. Branch, Berry said, “This has profoundly impacted my professional career and future opportunities and threatened my ability to provide for my family. And it has all been based on a lie.”

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