Two former camera operators for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon are suing Questlove, AKA Ahmir Thompson, for racial discrimination.
Questlove is the drummer for the Roots, the NBC talkshow’s house band. Kurt Decker and Michael Ciminto have alleged that they received an “unsolicited racist and misogynist” text message from a stagehand during a taping of the show, which was reportedly also sent to Roots bassist Mark Kelley. Decker and Ciminto claim that they reported the message to NBC, and did not respond. They were suspended, and subsequently fired, the Blast reports.
The pair, who are white, now claim in a lawsuit that Questlove demanded their dismissal, “pressured NBC to fire all of the Caucasian employees involved in the incident”, and insisted that Kelley, who is African American, escape discipline. They claim that this incident follows a pattern of behaviour by NBC regarding “reporting requirements in other circumstances of wrongful conduct”, citing the network’s alleged awareness of sexual harassment allegations against news anchor Matt Lauer prior to his dismissal in November 2017. Decker and Cimino each seek $1m in damages.
In a statement, representatives for Questlove said that he “denies the ridiculous allegations made in this lawsuit. Racism is REAL and exists throughout the world and for these gentlemen to claim victim is not only disrespectful to Questlove and his bandmates, but to all that truly endure racism on a daily basis.”
Questlove’s representatives reiterated the network’s statement that the decision to fire the employees was the company’s responsibility. NBC said that they were “committed to providing a work environment in which all individuals are treated with respect and dignity. We have strong policies in place that protect against discrimination in any form. The decision about these plaintiffs was the company’s alone.”
Airing on NBC since 1954, the Tonight Show is the world’s longest-running talkshow. In its 63-year history it has had six official hosts, including Johnny Carson and Jay Leno. Comedian Jimmy Fallon has presented the show since 2014, broadcasting in New York City in front of a live audience.
The Roots, a lauded Philadelphia hip-hop outfit active since 1987, have been the Tonight Show’s house band since 2009. Their song Here I Come serves as theme tune, and the group also perform skits, advertising bumpers and walk-on music for guests. In 2011, Fallon apologised after they performed a portion from Fishbone’s 1985 song Lyin’ Ass Bitch when Republican congresswoman and presidential candidate Michele Bachmann appeared on the show.