Fired Al Jazeera America Staffer Seeks Millions Over ‘Anti-Semitic and Anti-American’ Claims: ‘Whoever Supports Israel Should Die a Fiery Death in Hell’

Apr. 30, 2015

A former staff member of Al Jazeera America filed a lawsuit against his former employer on Tuesday, alleging that he was subjected to “anti-American” and “anti-Semitic” remarks in the workplace, and that he was fired for subsequently complaining to human resources.

Matthew Luke, who oversaw media and archive management for the network, was reportedly terminated in February after he complained about Osman Mahmud, a supervisor who oversees broadcast operations and technology.

In a lawsuit filed against the Qatar-owned network Al Jazeera America, Luke alleges that Mahmud “unabashedly and openly made anti-Semitic and anti-American remarks” and would exercise bias against women, TV Newser reported.

“Mr. Mahmud’s discriminatory conduct included, but was not limited to, removing female employees from projects to which they had been previously assigned by other management level employees, excluding women from emails and meetings relevant to their assignments,” the complaint alleges.

It continues, “And making discriminatory, anti-Semitic and anti-American remarks such as ‘whoever supports Israel should die a fiery death in hell.’”

The lawsuit also claims that Mahmud expressed interest in replacing an Israeli cameraman with a Palestinian who had “questionable” qualifications, among other allegations of purported inappropriate behavior.

Mahmud reportedly filed a complaint against Luke before his firing, though that catalyst for that act is not known. The lawsuit refers to that complaint, which was purportedly used as the basis for Luke’s termination, as a “professional disagreement” that unfolded four months before Luke went to human resources about Mahmud’s alleged biased behavior, TV Newser reported.

Luke, who began working at the network in 2013 and claims he was terminated just 10 days after complaining about Mahmud, is seeking $15 million — $10 million in punitive damages and $5 million in compensatory damages.

“When Mr. Luke, an exemplary and loyal employee at Al Jazeera, reported the biased and discriminatory conduct of a high-level newsroom executive, the response was to circle the wagons and fire the messenger,” Jeffrey Kimmel, a lawyer for Luke, told TVNewser. “This is a clear violation of the law.”

In an interview with the Erik Wemple Blog, Mahmud denied the allegations waged against him.

“I have never mentioned words that you put in your e-mail,” he said, speaking specifically of the anti-Israel claim. “I have never even thought of that at all.”

Mahmud also called the allegation he mistreated women “a pack of lies, completely.”

Two top executives with Al Jazeera America have also resigned — Al Jazeera America’s executive vice president of human resources Diana Lee and the executive vice president of communications, Dawn Bridges, according to TVNewser.

It is unknown if the resignations were connected with the lawsuit. Deadline Hollywood quoted an unnamed source who said that the two left of their own accord and were not fired over the lawsuit or any other issue.

Al Jazeera currently has no comment on the lawsuit.