Watch the Video Central to the Erin Johnson Case
After much back and forth between Erin Johnson's lawyers and those representing JWT and WPP, the video that Ms. Johnson's legal team alleges shows former JWT chairman-CEO Gustavo Martinez making racial remarks has been made public.
The video became a focal point of a lawsuit Ms. Johnson filed March 10 against Mr. Martinez, JWT and its parent company WPP alleging that Mr. Martinez repeatedly made racist and sexist comments. The original lawsuit mentioned a video, but did not tie it to a specific incident. That later changed when Ms. Johson's lawyers on March 14 filed an amended lawsuit seeking to submit a video into evidence.
The video is from a corporate meeting held last May in Miami, Fla. According to the original suit, druring the taped meeting, Mr. Martinez made comments about a party at the hotel the night before: "The previous night, there had been a large party at the hotel's nightclub attended by mostly African-American guests. At the start of his presentation, Martinez described the hotel as 'tricky.' He explained that he 'found . . . different and strange characters in the elevator.' He further explained, 'I was thinking I was going to be raped at the elevator,' but 'not in a nice way.'" Those comments can be heard in the video.
WPP originally sought to have the video sealed, saying it contained proprietary agency processes that couldn't be seen by outsiders. It also said that making it public would violate the privacy of those in the video. The company later reversed course and said it would not object to the release of the video, so long as faces were obscured.
Several executives from JWT filed affidavits in support of Mr. Martinez, including New York head Lynn Power and Chief Creative Officer Matt Eastwood, saying that he was only making those comments during the meeting to ease tensions and lighten the mood.
In the video, Mr. Martinez apologizes to one woman, whose hotel room Mr. Martinez said was "very visited" the previous night. He later tells people in attendance to check their luggage. Ms. Johnson's lawyers in a previous filing references those comments, saying that the defendants' "claims ring hollow given defendants' willingness to have their current employees describe in a public filing a situation where conduct at a Hip Hop party and a hotel's misplacing luggage purportedly made a joke about rape an antidote to tension."
In the joint affidavit, JWT employees reference the luggage, saying: "We are aware of several problems that occurred at the hotel before and during those meetings," the document said. "We know that the police were dealing with a rowdy crowd at the hotel on a Sunday night and we are aware that employees believed that they had things stolen at the hotel. Events at the hotel caused apprehension amongst the JWT employees."