Executive Loses Job and Dog After Tirade Against African American Bird Watcher [Updated]

download-4We have long discussed the difficult questions raised by private and public employers punishing employees for postings on social media or controversies in their private lives.  When employers are identified in the media, controversial statements or conduct can have an obvious backlash against the them, particularly if there is an allegation of racist or discriminatory views.  For free speech advocates, this can raise a type of “Little Brother” problem but the First Amendment is focused on state, not private action. This ongoing debate over where to draw the line on private speech has a new controversy with the release of a truly shocking videotape of a woman, identified as Amy Cooper calling police on an African American bird watcher in Central Park. Her employer Franklin Templeton has put her on administrative leave while reviewing the incident.  She is reportedly the head of insurance investment solutions at Franklin Templeton.  Others have called for animal abuse charges to be filed as Cooper was shown yanking around her hapless dog during her tirade. The dog was surrendered to a local shelter for its protection. Update: Amy Cooper was fired shortly after she was put on administrative leave.
      The video is very disturbing.  Christian Cooper tried to get Amy Cooper to leash her dog because he said he was concerned over the dog ruining the habitat for birds.  When she refused, he pulled out a treat to pull the dog away from the underbrush.  She then picked up the dog by the collar and began walking toward him. He asked her to keep her distance and she told him to stop recording her.  The scene quickly melts down with her saying that she is going to call the cops. She can be heard saying “I’m in the Ramble and there’s an African American man in a bicycle helmet. He’s recording me and threatening me and my dog.” She then repeats “There’s an African American man. I’m in Central Park, he is recording me and threatening myself and my dog.” She soon is yelling in her phone “I’m being threatened by a man in the Ramble. Please send the cops immediately. I’m in Central Park in the Ramble, I don’t know.”

The police arrived but found neither Cooper nor the man were present.

It is not clear if Cooper would be charged though it is unlikely.  She clearly clearly suggesting an imminent attack and says falsely that Christian Cooper is threatening her. Section 240.50 allows a charge for anyone who “initiates or circulates a false report” or, “gratuitously reports to a law enforcement officer or agency…an allegedly impending occurrence of an offense or incident which in fact is not about to occur.”  However, such a charge might deter other people from calling police when they are in fear of an attack.

      Cooper, 41, later apologized for the incident in a phone interview with NBC New York. She also returned her Cocker Spaniel to a rescue shelter where she adopted him a couple years ago.  According to Heavy.com, Christian Cooper, 57, is a former Marvel Comics editor who graduated from Harvard and now works as the senior biomedical editor at Health Science Communications.  He is an avid bird watcher.

Amy Cooper is a vice president and head of investment solutions at Franklin Templeton Investments in New York City and a native of Canada. She received a degree in actuarial science from the University of Waterloo in Ontario and a master’s in business administration in analytical finance at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business in 2009.

We have addressed an array of such incidents, including social media controversies involving academics. In some cases, racially charged comments have been treated as free speech while in others they have resulted in discipline or termination. It is that lack of a consistent standard that has magnified free speech concerns.  We have previously discussed the issue of when it is appropriate to punishment people for conduct outside of the work place. We have followed cases where people have been fired after boorish or insulting conduct once their names and employers are made known. (here and here and here and here and here and here).

The fact is that Franklin Templeton has now been drawn into the controversy by association. This case does not raise the type of political speech that we have previously discussed as a growing concern. This is not political speech but an unhinged and deeply disturbing use of what Christian Cooper called “the race card.”  Courts are likely to support employers in holding employees accountable for such controversies.


1,389 thoughts on “Executive Loses Job and Dog After Tirade Against African American Bird Watcher [Updated]”

  1. “The Unnecessary Rehabilitation of Amy Cooper”

    by Megan Reynolds
    Today 5:15PM



    Over Memorial Day weekend, a video depicting an act of casual and cruel racism circulated widely on Twitter. In the video, an aggrieved white woman confronts the man holding the camera, dragging a cocker spaniel by the collar in one hand as she advances. “I’m asking you to stop,” she says. “I’m calling the police. I’m telling them there is an African-American man threatening my life.” The interaction goes on for a minute or so, and thankfully never escalates. Her voice grows sharp as her unfounded panic increases: “I’m being threatened by a man in the Ramble, please send the cops immediately!”

    The confrontation ends once the woman clips the leash to her dog’s collar, which was all the man wanted. In the face of what could’ve been a life-threatening altercation, the man remains calm.

    Since the video’s spread the woman in question, Amy Cooper, has been the subject of intense public scrutiny, and the facts of her past have been dredged up as a means of explaining her behavior. She issued a mealy-mouthed public apology that attempted to grapple with her own privilege as well as her latent racism: “When I think about the police, I’m such a blessed person,” she told NBC 4 New York. “I’ve come to realize especially today that I think of [the police] as a protection agency, and unfortunately, this has caused me to realize that there are so many people in this country that don’t have that luxury.” Following the incident, the dog, Henry, was briefly returned to the rescue organization Cooper had adopted it from. Cooper also lost her job at investment firm Franklin Templeton. Christian Cooper (no relation), the man who was her target, stated quite plainly in an interview with the New York Times that the encounter itself wasn’t the problem, it simply illustrated the racist impulse that Amy Cooper, and many like her, operate from.

    “It’s not about her,” he told the Times. “What she did was tap into a deep vein of racial bias.”

    -Megan Reynolds

    1. There are lots of veins that were tapped here and racism is only one.

      Far too many people miss the fact that a lone woman in the park was threatened by a big man. And then had her life ruined because she did not dot all the politically correct i’s as she sought to protect herself.

      Women were once again sent Stokley charmicheals message “the only position for women in the movement is prone”

      Do not presume because there were no protests and few spoke out that women did not get the message.

      Your safety is subordinate to political correctness.

      More recently on CNN a left wing nut woman spoke the quiet part out loud.

      If you call 911 and there are not police to save you from the burglar or rapist.
      be quiet and think about your priviledge.

  2. “Amy, Amy, Amy…”

    It seems anonymous is still wrestling with the amy issue even though no one stated she was a nice person. Anonymous wants to make sure he gets one last punch at a person he has never even met. Sort of sick.

      1. John, As I have stated over and over again, I don’t find either one acted well. It was a small incident blown out by those that have rage and wish to push the false idea of tremendous racism in this nation.

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