A white woman who called 911 and falsely accused a Black bird-watcher of threatening her in New York City’s Central Park in a 2020 incident that went viral has lost a lawsuit accusing her former employer of illegally firing her and making her out to be a racist.
U.S. District Judge Ronnie Abrams on Wednesday rejected Amy Cooper’s claims that her former employer, investment management company Franklin Templeton, defamed her when it repeatedly said the firm did not tolerate racism.
Abrams further said Amy Cooper had failed to prove that she was fired due to her race or gender and without the kind of investigation that had once been conducted on allegations of another employee’s misconduct.
Amy Cooper lost her job after a video was shared on social media showing her calling 911 on bird-watcher Christian Cooper and telling police that an “African American man” had threatened her life and the life of her dog.
Christian Cooper, who has no relation to Amy Cooper, told NBC News at the time that he asked her to put her dog back on a leash, which is the policy for the Ramble area of Central Park. Amy Cooper later told NBC New York that she had overreacted and was sorry for the incident.
The video of the May 25, 2020, incident was seen by millions on the internet within hours of being posted, however, and sparked widespread outrage, with many calling for Amy Cooper to be held to account over her actions as they dubbed her the “Central Park Karen.” The video was also taken the same day a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd, prompting global protests about racial injustice and police brutality.
The following day, Franklin Templeton tweeted out that it had terminated Amy Cooper’s employment.
In her lawsuit, Amy Cooper had argued that the company’s statements suggested Franklin Templeton had access to undisclosed facts justifying its position that were not clear from the viral video of the incident.
However, Abrams wrote that “nothing about Defendants’ May 26 Statement suggested that the opinions contained therein rested on facts undisclosed to the audience.”
“The contents of the viral video, as well as the dialogue surrounding it both in the media and on social media, were already matters of public knowledge,” the judge said, rendering the defendants’ statements “inactionable as pure opinion.”
Lawyers for Amy Cooper did not immediately respond to an overnight request for comment from NBC News. Franklin Templeton also did not immediately respond to an overnight request for comment.
The company, which is part of San Mateo, California-based Franklin Resources Inc., told Reuters it had “responded appropriately” to the incident and was pleased with the case’s outcome.
When Amy Cooper first filed the complaint against Franklin Templeton in May 2021, exactly a year after the incident took place, the company branded her claims “baseless” and said it would defend itself.
Manhattan prosecutors charged Amy Cooper in July 2020 with filing a false police report, which is a misdemeanor, but the charge was dropped months later after she completed therapy.