Wendy Williams' Ex Kevin Hunter Sues Talk Show for Wrongful Termination
By Paige Gawley
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Kevin Hunter is taking legal action. On Tuesday, Wendy Williams' ex filed a lawsuit against Debmar-Mercury, the producer-distributor of The Wendy Williams Show, for unlawful termination.
According to court docs obtained by ET, Hunter claims that Debmar-Mercury's decision to terminate him was on the basis of his marital status. A company spokesman for Debmar-Mercury had no comment.
"[Kevin] Hunter was one of the reasons behind the Wendy William Show's tremendous success and everything seemed to go south after he left," Abe George, Hunter's attorney, told ET in a statement. "Mr. Hunter was unlawfully terminated solely due to his marital status to Wendy, which is contrary to human rights laws in NYC . This lawsuit seeks to compensate Mr. Hunter for the sweat equity that he put into the show and that Debmar-Mercury will continue to profit on even in their new reincarnation of the Wendy Williams Show."
Hunter and Williams tied the knot in 1997 and the TV personality filed for divorce in April 2019. Just days later, Hunter claims he received written notice from Debmar-Mercury that he was fired as the executive producer of The Wendy Williams Show and that he was no longer allowed on studio premises, according to the docs.
Also in the docs, Hunter states that he and Debmar-Mercury were both involved in The Wendy Williams Show since its inception in 2008. Hunter further claims that he was "instrumental to the show’s success" as he "negotiated, produced, and planned most of the concepts and branding behind the show."
"The termination message to Plaintiff made no reference to any performance related reason(s) or any decision(s) related to Plaintiff’s employment as an Executive Producer," the docs read. "The termination of Plaintiff was based strictly upon Plaintiff’s marital status and his impending divorce to the Show’s host, ignoring all of the contributions that Plaintiff made to make the show a success."
Hunter, who is demanding a jury trial, is seeking compensatory, punitive damages, an award of costs, interest and attorney's fees, and more, amounting to no less than $7 million, per the docs.
"As a result of Defendants’ unlawful and discriminatory conduct in this regard," the docs read, "Plaintiff Hunter has been significantly damaged reputationally, professionally, and financially."
"According to published reports, many of the elements of The Wendy Williams Show, including the segments that Plaintiff helped conceptualize and the product integrations he created, will be part of Sherri Shepherd’s new show," Hunter notes in the docs.
Hunter adds that his "divorce proceedings did not absolve the Defendants of their responsibilities to pay him for his contributions to the show and allow him to continue in his role as Executive Producer unless agreed upon by Plaintiff Hunter and Defendants that his role would cease and that the Defendants would compensate him accordingly."
Following news of the end of Williams' show, her rep, Howard Bragman, told ET in a statement that "it’s been a challenging time for Wendy as she deals with her health issues."
"She is incredibly grateful to Debmar-Mercury, to Sherri and everybody else who has supported the show through this time. She, more than anyone, understands the reality of syndicated television -- you can’t go to the marketplace and sell a show that’s the Maybe Wendy Show," Bragman said. "She understands why this decision was made from a business point of view, and she has been assured by Debmar-Mercury that should her health get to a point where she can host again and should her desire be that she hosts again that she would be back on TV at that time."
Kym Whitley, Finesse Mitchell, Remy Ma, Fat Joe, Carson Kressley, Vivica A. Fox and Shepherd are slated to guest host The Wendy Williams Show in March.