“Central Park Karen” Defamation & Discrimination Lawsuit Rejected
Plaintiff Amy Cooper, a white woman, was formerly employed by Defendant Franklin Templeton in New York as a Portfolio Manager. On May 25, 2020, she was involved in a confrontation with birdwatcher Christian Cooper, a black man, while walking her dog in Central Park. Video footage of the encounter was posted to Facebook and Twitter later that day. The video quickly went viral—garnering millions of views—and earned Plaintiff the moniker “Central Park Karen” on social media. The next day, Franklin Templeton announced that it had conducted an internal review of the incident and terminated Plaintiff’s employment….
The following facts are drawn from the complaint and are assumed to be true for the purposes of this motion….
On May 25, 2020, Plaintiff was involved in an altercation with Christian Cooper, a black man, while he was birdwatching and she was walking her dog in Central Park. The confrontation, which Plaintiff claims caused her to fear for her safety and that of her dog, culminated in Plaintiff placing a 911 call, during which she told the police that there was “an African-American man threatening [her] life.” A video of the encounter was shared on social media that same day; it quickly went viral and “became international news as a racial flashpoint.” Plaintiff was soon branded a “privileged white female ‘Karen'” by the media and social media users….
On the night of the Central Park incident, Franklin Templeton—Plaintiff’s then- employer—published the following statement on Twitter concerning the incident:
We take these matters very seriously, and we do not condone racism of any kind. While we are in the process of investigating the situation, the employee involved has been put on administrative leave.
The next afternoon, Franklin Templeton tweeted an update, which read:
Following our internal review of the incident in Central Park yesterday, we have made the decision to terminate the employee involved, effective immediately. We do not tolerate racism of any kind at Franklin Templeton.
Plaintiff alleges that, as part of its “investigation” into the Central Park incident, Franklin Templeton communicated with her on the day of the incident. It did not, however, interview or seek to interview Mr. Cooper about it. Nor did it obtain a recording of Plaintiff’s 911 call from the police, or minutes from New York City community board meetings pre-dating the incident that allegedly pertained to prior altercations in Central Park between Mr. Cooper and other dog owners. Franklin Templeton also did not interview Jerome Lockett, one such dog owner, who allegedly had a similar run-in with Mr. Cooper in Central Park, and who emailed a statement about that encounter to NBC on May 26, 2020.
In the months following the Central Park incident, the President and CEO of Franklin Templeton, Jenny Johnson, referenced or spoke about the incident in several public interviews. In a June 2, 2020 interview with Bloomberg regarding the company’s decision to terminate Plaintiff, Johnson said:
I just have to commend  our crisis management team, it was a holiday. Everybody got together. We needed to spend time getting the facts. Sometimes videos can get manipulated and so you have to make sure that you’ve reviewed all the facts. I think the facts were undisputed in this case, and we were able to make a quick decision.
And in a July 6, 2020 interview with Fortune Magazine, she stated: “[Defendants] espouse zero tolerance for racism.” …
The court rejected plaintiff’s defamation claim:
The allegedly defamatory statements at issue in this action are: (1) Defen
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