In May 2020, a white woman walking her dog was filmed calling the cops on a Black man who dared to ask her to follow New York City leash law. The woman, Amy Cooper, told police that the birdwatcher, Christian Cooper, was threatening her life—marking one of the first racist Karen moments to go viral before the summer of racial justice protests. Cooper was swiftly fired from her job. Almost exactly a year later, in May 2021, she filed a lawsuit against her former employers for race and gender discrimination, defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligence, citing that the company tweeted “we do not tolerate racism,” after she was fired. On Wednesday, that lawsuit was dismissed.
The New York district court judge found that Cooper failed to present a reasonable defamation claim against her former employer, investment firm Franklin Templeton. “The contents of the viral video, as well as the dialogue surrounding it both in the media and on social media, were already matters of public knowledge when [Franklin Templeton’s] May 26 tweet was posted,” U.S. District Judge Ronnie Abrams wrote in the opinion.
The court also dismissed claims that Cooper was fired because of her race or gender because her employers simply did not mention her race or gender. “Defendants’ repeated condemnations of racism, moreover, did not ‘implicate [Plaintiff’s] race’ because—as the Second Circuit has squarely held— ‘‘[r]acism’ is not a race, and discrimination on the basis of alleged racism is not the same as discrimination on the basis of race,’” Abrams wrote.
In the video released by Christian’s sister on Memorial Day, we hear Cooper tell police that an “African American man” was threatening her and her dog’s lives. In a call that wasn’t released to the public until months later, Cooper alleged that a Black man (we can infer she meant Christian) tried to assault her as well. It was viewed millions of times and seen as a direct contrast to the police killing of George Floyd on the same day.
In the days after her viral moment, Cooper released an apology: “I sincerely and humbly apologize to everyone, especially to that man [and] his family,” she told NBC New York in May 2020. “It was unacceptable and I humbly and fully apologize to everyone who’s seen that video, everyone that’s been offended…everyone who thinks of me in a lower light, and I understand why they do.”
Then, like all bad apologies, Cooper attempted to justify her bad behavior. “When I think about the police, I’m such a blessed person,” Cooper said. “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 Manhattan district attorney filed one misdemeanor charge of falsely reporting an incident. But the charge was dismissed in February 2021 after Cooper attended therapy.
In her initial complaint, Cooper asked for “back pay and lost bonus; loss of unvested funds and other benefits; reinstatement or front pay; compensatory damages for emotional distress; punitive damages; attornies’ fees and costs” as compensation for the company’s role in painting her as “a privileged [w]hite woman.”
Well, she won’t be getting that back. Maybe now we can finally stop hearing about this woman, and she can learn from her mistakes in private.