A radio station has accused a gay presenter of sending a homophobic tweet from its official account as part of an attempt to extort a legal settlement.
New Orleans talk radio station WWL-AM says it has passed an official complaint to police, accusing host Seth Dunlap of sending the tweet from his personal cellphone.
It stems from an incident earlier this month, where a tweet from WWL’s official Twitter account responded to a tweet from Dunlap, who is 35 and openly gay, calling him a “fag.”
Dunlap tweeted, “Which of these 5 overreactions isn’t actually an overreaction?” to which the station’s account replied, “That you’re a fag.”
At the time, WWL issued a statement calling the tweet “categorically offensive and abhorrent to the station,” adding that they were “actively investigating” the offensive tweet.
Dunlap later said he was taking a leave of absence from the station as part of a “deeply personal” decision because he had to “do what’s best for me.”
“Most importantly, to all of the LGBTQ+ people out there please know that your voices are being heard,” he tweeted. “I have tried hard to not make this about me because, truthfully, it’s not. It’s about a culture of hate and bigotry that has proliferated recently in our society.”
But WWL now accuses Dunlap of fabricating the entire incident as part of a plan to extort compensation.
According to a police report obtained by The Times-Picayune, WWL claims that Dunlap threatened to go “scorched earth” over the tweet and demanded $1.85 million to cover his personal financial troubles.
WWL said that Dunlap has “a variety of unpaid credit cards and personal loans” and has been sending the station “letters in the past few months regarding wage garnishment” to cover his debts.
The station claims it hired a forensic expert, who traced the tweet to an IP address associated with Dunlap’s phone.
The police report states that surveillance footage shows Dunlap in his office at the time the tweet was sent, before walking out to a co-worker, showing them his phone, and “apparently talking about the tweet.”
Police are investigating the station’s allegations, the report states, with the case being classified as possible extortion — an offense punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
Megan Kiefer, attorney for Dunlap, told the Times-Picayune that WWL’s accusations were “defamatory and self-serving” and that the police complaint is “littered with falsehoods.”
Kiefer claimed that attorneys working for WWL’s owner, Entercom, had “illegally used the threat of criminal prosecution” to settle with Dunlap for a low sum and that the company was “revictimizing Dunlap.”
Dunlap announced Wednesday that he had passed a lie-detector test, after it showed no signs of deception when he said he hadn’t participated in the sending of the tweet, or asked someone else to do so for him.
Kiefer said Dunlap didn’t provide his phone to the station’s investigators, but that they had also not requested it, and he had otherwise “fully cooperated.”
She added that the radio host didn’t have the password to WWL’s Twitter profile and said it was “truly reprehensible” that WWL was “attempting to blame the victim of its own anti-LGBT culture, and they are only compounding the severe damage that Mr. Dunlap has experienced at the hands of Entercom.”
Kiefer said that Dunlap intended to sue the station over a “broader homophobic culture at the station,” according to the Times-Picayune.
WWL issued a statement rejecting that assertion, saying it was “committed to supporting all members of the (LGBTQ community.”
“We apologize to our listeners, clients, partners and employees for this abhorrent, disrespectful act,” WWL said.