Former WAMU employee sues University, alleging harassing, retaliatory and unlawful actions

Lawsuit comes almost a year after initial defamation suit from Zuri Berry

Former WAMU employee sues University, alleging harassing, retaliatory and unlawful actions

A former employee of WAMU, the public radio station that is licensed to American University, filed a lawsuit against the University in August on the basis of race and sex discrimination, defamation and invasion of privacy. 

Zuri Berry was the senior managing editor of WAMU from January 2019 until January 2021, when he was terminated by the University after being placed on leave as a result of the investigation into his behavior at WAMU. 

Berry is suing the University for $10 million in damages and asking Current, a nonprofit news organization owned by the University’s School of Communication, to retract their article and publicly apologize, as well as asking the court for an injunction to prohibit the defendant from engaging in “any further acts of defamation, and invasion of privacy — false light.”

Berry also filed a lawsuit in September 2020 against the University, WAMU staff and Current and its staff, alleging defamation, invasion of privacy and “intentional interference with business relations against American University and Current and the individuals who defamed him in September 2020.”

The lawsuit states “The impact of American University’s false and defamatory statements on Mr. Berry have been profound. Mr. Berry was fired by American University and has been embarrassed, over and over again, by American University’s shameful and dishonest defense of Current and its reliance on WAMU staff to prop up its claims and journalistic failures. The continued online publication of Current’s article, without any update on its contention or the many faults in its journalistic rigor, has reduced Mr. Berry’s ability to find employment drastically.”

The lawsuit also claims that the article has since cost him jobs with potential employers, as well as disparaged him in the eyes of others in the journalism industry. 

In an email to The Eagle, Matthew Bennett, the University’s chief communication officer, said that the University does not comment on ongoing litigation and that the University has not been served with the lawsuit yet. 

David Branch, Berry’s attorney, did not respond to The Eagle’s request for comment. 

nheller@theeagleonline.com 

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