IATSE goes after 'L&O: SVU' exec

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The IATSE has accused an executive producer of "Law & Order: SVU" of repeatedly making racist and sexist remarks, claiming studio inaction on the situation is traceable to attitudes displayed in the recent Don Imus fracas.

The union, which through IA Locals 52 and 600 represents various stage and camera crew professionals on the show, said it has complained to NBC Universal Television in three instances involving allegations against exec producer Ted Kotcheff over the past three years. Kotcheff is accused of referring to a black crewmember as Stepin Fetchit.

The union said its attorneys notified NBC Universal brass in a letter dated April 7 that Kotcheff also told the crewmember to "get your Caribbean ass out of here -- go back to the Caribbean." The letter also claims Kotcheff "frequently refers to Asian Americans as 'Chinamen' and describes women in sexually derogatory and demeaning terms," according to an IA press release distributed Wednesday.

"This kind of racist and sexist behavior is unacceptable in today's workplace," IA president Thomas Short said in a statement. "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.

"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," Short continued. "This shows a pattern of irresponsibility and insensitivity to this kind of behavior. We have been trying for three years now to get them to discipline Ted Kotcheff, and they have continued to pass off these complaints as insignificant. 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."

NBC Uni's cable network, MSNBC, canceled Imus' TV simulcast of the talk-show host's radio program after a days-long controversy over some racially charged on-air remarks. Imus was initially suspended from the show.

Kotcheff made a "half-hearted" apology after one complaint about his alleged behavior, the IA said. But the apology "included a demeaning remark, rendering it moot," the union added.

"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," the IA said.

"L&O: SVU" has exec producers on both coasts, with Kotcheff based in New York.

"NBC Universal takes these matters very seriously," a NBC Universal Television spokesman said. "We investigate complaints of alleged workplace misconduct and take appropriate action based on our findings. However, we do not comment publicly on such personnel matters."
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