Producer Bill Schultz Claims Al Roker Fired Him for Supporting Black Staff

A notorious animated series producer has filed a lawsuit against famed weatherman Al Roker and his production company for retaliation while neglecting diversity television hires.

In the suit that was filed this week and shared by The Hollywood Reporter, Al Roker Entertainment and its subsidiary WeatherHunters, Inc. “wrongfully and illegally” fired Bill Schultz, who is well-known for The Simpsons’ golden years, King of the Hill, and countless children’s cartoons like Ed, Edd, and Eddy and Courage the Cowardly Dog. Schultz, who is white, claimed that he blew the whistle on alleged racial discrimination directed towards people of color and was ultimately terminated.

“Surprisingly, here, where the control person is Al Roker, a leading African American media personality and the [Weather Hunters] concept is focused on an African American Family and was inclusively developed for PBS’s importantly diverse children’s audience, the issue that doomed Mr. Schultz and led to his wrongful termination and the wholesale breach of contract was the issue of racial diversity,” read the lawsuit.

In 2014, the company, headed by Roker and with the assistance of Schultz, pitched Weather Hunters, a children’s animated series that was eventually picked up by PBS.

“Mr. Schultz conceived, conceptualized, and created the entire business plan for [Weather Hunters]. Mr. Schultz was indispensable in the creation of the Program and worked tirelessly to create a financial plan where one hundred percent (100%) of the ownership of the Program would be retained under the control and ownership of Al Roker,” the suit read.

Through 2022, Schultz worked on the series for PBS, which implemented a diversity clause to increase the employment of writers of color on the show that targeted Black audiences.

According to the lawsuit, Schultz was an adamant believer in “diversity and racial inclusion,” trying to find culturally sensitive writers for Weather Hunters.

“Mr. Schultz consistently maintained a vision for staffing and producing the Program with a diverse group of creators and artists and was fully cooperative when PBS took this one step further and made it an absolute contractual mandate as a condition of greenlighting the full production,” according to the lawsuit. “PBS created a DEI policy and made it a contractual requirement for all of its new children’s programs.”

However, Schultz accused Al Roker Entertainment and the WeatherHunters of facilitating an environment that allowed the “wholesale deconstruction of a diversity, equity, and inclusion (‘DEI’) program intended to bring minority writers onto a PBS television production.”

Rather than abiding by the diversity initiatives, Schulz accused Roker’s companies of trying to skirt around policies.

“They saw the use of [Black, Indigenous, and people of color] individuals as a handicap or unwelcome obstacle that could be disregarded if necessary and be evaded or overcome—even if it meant using underhanded and deceptive tactics,” the lawsuit read. “Further, management at Al Roker Entertainment did not see the PBS DEI mandate as a requirement.”

Management falsely claimed writers of color were inexperienced, and white writers were hired instead, according to the complaint.

Schultz said that management lied and said that hiring qualified writers of color took too much time and would knock production off their schedule.

“Instead of giving the chances to BIPOC writers as had been the plan, the story editor, repeating a strategy previously advocated and backed by Al Roker Entertainment management in writing, wanted to have ‘non-BIPOC’ writers write the stories, and then bring on a ‘BIPOC’ writer,” the complaint read, adding that BIPOC writers would kind of review the material and add some flavor to make the writing seem culturally authentic.

“This was a deceptive and cynical tactic to give the false appearance of diversity in writing and show ‘numbers’ supporting diversity while side-stepping the effort to recruit, develop and work with BIPOC writers he wrongly and offensively characterized as less capable,” stated the complaint.

Schultz rang the alarm to Roker and production management, but he was fired in Feb. 2024 for alleged falsified breaches of contract.

“Following the implementation of the DEI Policy, Defendants attempted to disregard and minimize it and retaliated against Mr. Schultz when he objected to issues surrounding the conduct of Defendants concerning the DEI Policy and race,” the complaint read.

Schultz has demanded a trial and a payment of at least $10 million.

Roker did not immediately return The Daily Beast’s requests for comment Wednesday.


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