A series of emails and memos reportedly sent between executives at BET appear to lend weight to transgender media personality B. Scott's allegations that the network discriminated against him when he was removed from a planned hosting spot for the network's annual awards preshow last June because he was dressed too femininely.
Scott filed a lawsuit against BET last summer, charging that the network discriminated against him on the basis of his gender identity by literally pulling him off the red carpet and demanding that he change into more masculine attire. When Scott complied, by pulling back his long hair, removing his makeup and high heels, and changing his flowing blue tunic and black slacks for a fitted navy suit jacket and slim black pants, he was added back to the end of the program's preshow in a vastly diminished capacity, as a guest commentator rather than the sole style stage correspondent he'd been hired as.
After Scott went public with the incident on his well-read blog and in media outlets nationwide — including The Advocate — BET issued an apology for "any unintended offense to B. Scott and ... the LGBT community." Scott refused to accept the apology, and pressed forward with the lawsuit.
Now leaked emails obtained by TMZ suggest that BET executives were premeditated in their attempts to suppress Scott's gender-nonconforming identity.
"I don't want 'looking like a woman' B. Scott," BET music programming president Stephen Hill allegedly wrote before the June 30 awards show, according to emails obtained by TMZ. "I want tempered B. Scott."
The network's vice president, Rhonda Cohen, reportedly replied, "I can speak to him about being less 'womanly.'"
After Scott made public his allegations of discrimination, BET's vice president of digital marketing, Monique Ware, evidently advised her colleagues on how to "spin" the controversy, according to another email reviewed by TMZ.
"The spin should be he was late for a live show and subsequently replaced and it would have been awkward in a live show to have the person assuming his role removed and him inserted," Ware reportedly wrote.
But then the email suggests that such a "spin" might not be the whole truth: "Unless we can make public the reason we didn't want him dressed the way he normally does, I would stay away from suits, suit selections, etc."
Responding to the leaked emails, Scott said he was shocked and hurt, but not especially surprised.
"While I’m disheartened by the blatant and intentional attempt to stifle my gender identity/expression way before the day of the event, I’m also thankful that the truth is starting to surface," wrote Scott on his blog Thursday. "This email exchange not only corroborates everything I said to be true, but it shows that BET/Viacom tried to cover-up and spin that truth with lies… It’s a shame that a company such as BET/Viacom would rather focus energy towards slandering my reputation in an attempt to further humiliate me instead of learning from their mistakes. The time & energy spent creating a ‘spin’ could have more effectively been used to help create a more welcoming environment for LGBTQ employees."
BET has yet to respond to TMZ's request for comment — the same outcome as when The Advocate sought comment from the network for a September feature on Scott and the incident with BET.