Advertising, Asians, Lawyer Advertising, Minority Issues, Racism, Small Law Firms, Videos, YouTube

The Racist Law Firm Ad Update — The Maligned Law Firm Speaks

Over the holiday weekend, there’s been a lot of activity surrounding the racist law firm advertisement we wrote about on Wednesday. First, the firm’s Facebook page declared that the firm was the victim of hacking and that they absolutely did not sanction the ad for their firm posted on YouTube.

Then the head of the production company who posted the ad — and who employs the stereotypical character in multiple ads — wrote a missive swearing that it was hired by the firm and that they provided the script. The production company is also butthurt that Above the Law labeled the ad racist, even though the YouTube post openly trolls viewers to lighten up about its content. I wonder why they’d expect people to be up in arms over their content. Certainly not because they expect people to think it’s racist.

Now the law firm has sent us a direct statement, and this whole tale is super-crazy…

When we first saw this story, covered by Angry Asian Man and FindLaw, we had no reason not to take the disclaimer on the Definitive Television YouTube channel at anything but face value. They’d had the video up for weeks and swore that the firm commissioned them to make the ad. While the character was not the firm’s, the production company said the firm signed off on the script.

Now we have reason to doubt this tale. In response to a query from Above the Law, McCutcheon & Hamner issued this statement:

For the past two weeks, we have worked diligently to determine the source of this video. Within hours of first being notified of the commercials existence, we traced the producer to Definitive Television and its owner Jim DeBerry. We insisted that the video be removed and that he disclose the party that allowed my partner and I to be portrayed in such a negative and misleading light. After a personal review of our financial records which conclusively established that this video was not paid for or authorized by any party associated with our law firm, McCutcheon & Hamner, P.C. posted our response specifically disavowing the video as well as issuing a cease and desist letter to Mr. DeBerry and Definitive Television. Of course, Mr. DeBerry has refused and we are currently investigating our legal options. At this time, we have been instructed by our legal counsel to refrain from comment.

Due to your stereotypical response concerning the State of Alabama, however, I felt compelled to respond. It is obvious that no matter my firms lack of involvement and repeated denials relating to this video, that people are quick to judge based upon their initial observations regardless of whether they know Tom and I personally. You don’t know me. You don’t know my family or my friends. You have never contacted me or spoken with me. You know nothing of my life and yet you stereotype me as promoting racism based upon this video. The State of Alabama has had it’s share of race problems, that cannot be denied. This State has addressed those problems and continues to do so. Quite frankly, if the video had portrayed a “southern redneck” I doubt you or anyone else would have even cared. But racism for people like you is ok, as long it is not directed at you. Quite frankly, maybe you should look in the mirror and not be so quick to judge those you don’t know.

Sincerely,

Joel R. Hamner, Esquire
McCutcheon & Hamner, PC

This is all still being sorted out, but if this is true, I feel sincerely bad for the firm. Getting tagged with this kind of negative imagery through no fault of their own would be horrible. If the firm’s story is true, at least this whole affair brought the offending video to light instead of letting it fester for weeks or months longer. Both through updates to the original post and this follow-up, we’ve been quick to bring to the public the denials of McCutcheon & Hamner and to give a complete view of the unfolding story.

And while I personally feel for the firm if this is true, a couple lines deserve note. First, regarding the statement that “racism for people like you is ok, as long [as] it is not directed at you” — in fairness, I don’t think the “southern redneck” stereotype is actually “racist.” It may be prejudicial, but it doesn’t carry with it the same debilitating consequences as race-based stereotypes. But for the record, no, racism is not OK when not directed at me. (Actually, as a white heterosexual male, discrimination is pretty much never directed at me, but I still think it’s bad.)

Second, it’s good to hear that Alabama is taking steps to address its historical and persistent race relations problems. It’s not too long ago we were reading about voter suppression laws there, so something still needs to be done, no matter what Chief Justice Roberts says.

Hopefully the state will continue to address it as vigilantly as it addresses holes in FG return coverage.

UPDATE (12/4/2013, 1:10 p.m.): Jim DeBerry, creator of the video, insists that McCutcheon & Hamner ordered it. He has posted the following to the video’s YouTube “About” page:

12/04/13 – 1:43AM EST UPDATE: We have offered to take down the video with the conditions that McCutcheon & Hamner, P.C. STOP lying about not ordering the video from us, admit they paid, admit they provided the copy a/k/n script, retract the falsehoods, and apologize to us..

WE ARE UNDER NO OBLIGATION TO TAKE DOWN THE VIDEO, AFTER CONSIDERING THE PUBLIC VIEWING INTEREST WE WILL KEEP IT UP.

A COUPLE OF FACTS TO KNOW

McCutcheon & Hamner, P.C. have never called us saying we didn’t create this video and wanted it down, because they know they did. in our opinion they had hope it would just go away and be brushed under the rug.

They are attempting to do damage control. I have provided proof they ordered the video from us, Which they know I have.

You can read his full statement on YouTube.

UPDATE (12/3/2013, 11:20 p.m.): Here is an ABA Journal story featuring comments from Hamner and DeBerry, who are both sticking to their original positions.

UPDATE (12/9/2013): Tina Matsuoka, executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, did some investigation of the situation. Her statement to NAPABA summarizing what she learned appears here.

Earlier: Law Firm Advertising — Now With More Racism!

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