NEW YORK, March 30 (Reuters) - J. Walter Thompson urged a federal judge not to make public a video purporting to show its recently replaced chief executive making sexist and racist slurs, saying it would fan a media feeding frenzy surrounding the case and his abrupt departure.
The ad agency made its request on Tuesday night in Manhattan federal court, 12 days after JWT, a unit of Britain’s WPP Plc , announced the resignation of Gustavo Martinez as chief executive.
Martinez was replaced one week after being accused in a lawsuit of unprofessional behavior by Erin Johnson, JWT’s chief communications officer.
Anne Vladeck, a lawyer for Johnson, did not immediately respond on Wednesday to requests for comment.
According to Johnson’s amended complaint, the video purports to show Martinez talking to JWT employees last May at the Viceroy hotel in Miami, soon after a nightclub party there attended by many African-Americans.
Martinez allegedly said he had found “different and strange characters in the elevator” and thought he was “going to be raped at the elevator,” and that JWT employees should “check all your luggage” as a precaution while at the hotel.
But JWT said Johnson “completely distorted” the comments, which in context and given Martinez’s “lack of command of the English language” showed an effort to “alleviate the significant tension” that employees felt after the party, which featured “unruly” behavior and attracted several police cars.
JWT also said Martinez had spoken after a senior female JWT executive had reported her luggage stolen from her hotel room, before learning later that hotel staff removed it by mistake.
“Gustavo was trying to ease the tension that we were all feeling,” several JWT executives said in their own court filing. “While we would not have chosen the same words he did, it was clear that he was not creating an uncomfortable atmosphere.”
JWT told U.S. District Judge Paul Oetken “there is no reason to file the video at this time other than to feed the media frenzy surrounding this case,” and that it should be filed under seal if at all. The video runs less than a minute, it said.
Martinez’s LinkedIn entry and official JWT biography said he was fluent in English.
The Argentina native was raised in Spain, and had been JWT’s chairman and chief executive since January 2015. Tamara Ingram, who had been WPP’s chief client team officer, replaced him.
Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Tom Brown