For the third time in as many years, the IATSE has asked NBC Universal Television to investigate continued complaints of racist and sexist remarks and antagonistic behavior from “Law & Order: SVU” Executive Producer Ted Kotcheff. According to the IA, several complaints from members of both Local 52 and Local 600 have come into their offices, prompting the International’s legal firm, Spivak-Lipton, toseek redress from NBC-Universal.
After one such complaint, Kotcheff made what was referred to as a “half-hearted” apology, which also included a demeaning remark, rendering it moot. The latest accusation comes from a member of the show’s crew, who has reluctantly refused to file charges against Kotcheff for fear it will be career-ending.
In June, 2005, Local 52, joined by other IA production locals, filed charges against Kotcheff concerning highly inappropriate comments he had made on numerous occasions. An April 7, 2007, letter from Spivak-Lipton to the NBC Universal Legal Department, referred to those charges and stated that Kotcheff addressed an African-American crewmember as “Step’n Fetchit.” The letter also says Kotcheff told thecrewmember to “get your Caribbean ass out of here – go back to the Caribbean.” It goes on to state that Kotcheff frequently refers to Asian-Americans as “Chinamen,” and describes women in sexually derogatory and demeaning terms.
The letter from Spivak-Lipton also stated, “During the 2005 investigation, we advised NBC Universal that Mr. Kotcheff was a time-bomb and that it was only a matter of time before he visited vile, venomous, demeaning comments to other crew members…In a letter to the Company dated October 11, 2005, we expressed our disappointment with the Company’s investigation, its ‘high tolerance for inappropriatebehavior in the workplace,’ and its lenient interpretation and selective application of its anti-harassment/anti-discrimination policies.”
A longtime DP on “SVU” said, “I’ve been witness to Ted Kotcheff’s verbal abuse of the crew and actors for years. It’s a serious pattern of continued abuse. His solution to everything is to fire someone.”
IA President Thomas C. Short said in a statement today, “This kind of racist and sexist behavior is unacceptable in today’s workplace. We’re here to protect our members, and when a network or studio ignores repeated requests to discipline those who are accused of these actions, the message they are sending is very clear. They don’t care.”
Continued President Short, “It took NBC Universal almost a week to react to the Don Imus situation, and then only under pressure from black leaders and women’s groups, and the abandonment of advertisers. This shows a pattern of irresponsibility and insensitivity to this kind of behavior. We’ve been trying for three years now to get them to discipline Ted Kotcheff and they have continued to pass off these complaints asinsignificant. When it’s behind the camera, they think they can get away with it. Our members are not insignificant and we will continue to pursue this issue by whatever means necessary.”