Bias suit names an Advertiser editor
The newspaper's op-ed page editor allegedly acted against a Filipino
A woman of Filipino ancestry has sued the Honolulu Advertiser, claiming racial discrimination by a top newspaper editor for more than a year before quitting.
Pati Poblete, in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court on Tuesday against Gannett Publishing LLC, alleges that Advertiser Editorial and Opinion Page Editor Jeanne Mariani-Belding discriminated against her soon after she was hired as deputy editorial page editor on Sept. 12, 2006, until she resigned Nov. 6, 2007.
Advertiser Editor Mark Platte called the charges of racial discrimination, retaliation and emotional distress "baseless" and said the newspaper would fight the case.
Mariani-Belding, national president of the Asian American Journalists Association, whose mission includes promoting fair and accurate coverage of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, did not return a phone call yesterday. She is also in charge of the newspaper's "Hot Seat" blog, mediating questions posed by readers to politicians and others.
AAJA, which has about 2,000 members across the country and in Asia, is aware of the lawsuit but referred questions to Mariani-Belding, whose two-year term as president expires in December, an official at the organization's San Francisco headquarters said.
In the suit, Poblete said she left the San Francisco Chronicle to join the Advertiser and was immediately forced by Mariani-Belding to keep progress logs on a co-worker of Filipino ancestry, Emil Guillermo, in an apparent effort to force him out.
Guillermo, who, according to the suit, was regularly humiliated by Mariani-Belding in editorial board meetings, accepted a buyout in April 2007. Guillermo said yesterday he wanted to review the allegations before deciding whether to comment on the matter.
Mariani-Belding's racial attacks turned to Poblete after she protested how her boss had treated Guillermo, according to the suit.
Mariani-Belding allegedly aked Poblete, "Are you just trying to protect him because he's Filipino?"
The suit says that in another instance, Mariani-Belding, while looking at a photograph of roasted dogs in a Vietnamese market, told Poblete and her Filipino fiance, "Oh, you guys would know about eating dogs."
In staff discussions, she also allegedly asserted that Honolulu Councilman Nestor Garcia has "a brain the size of a pea" and that state Rep. Rida Cabanilla-Arakawa, also of Filipino ancestry, is "dumber than a doorknob."
Poblete and her attorney could not be reached for comment.
Poblete claims she eventually met with Advertiser Human Resources Director Miki Sugikawa, who informed her that Mariani-Belding had admitted to making racial remarks, according to the suit. It says Poblete quit after being reassigned in November to the paper's Island Life department.
Messages left with Sugikawa's office and Advertiser President and Publisher Lee Webber were not returned yesterday.
The lawsuit is seeking compensatory damages in an amount to be determined at trial.