Jordanian-American author Natasha Tynes has filed a lawsuit against book publisher Rare Bird Lit Inc., claiming they wrongly accused her of racism after she tweeted a photo of a black D.C. Metro transit employee eating on a train.
Back in May, Tynes made national and international news in May after she tweeted that photo. Next to the photo, she wrote, “I thought we were not allowed to eat on the train. This is unacceptable. Hope @wmata responds. When I asked the employee about this, her response was ‘worry about yourself.'”
Many people perceived Tynes’ actions as an “unwarranted tattletale attack on a person of color.” That’s when Rare Bird Lit Inc. tweeted that they decided to take away her book deal for her upcoming novel, “They Called Me Wyatt.”
Tynes claimed that the book publisher’s statement on Twitter ruined her reputation. She said she was placed on leave from her job and hospitalized for several conditions, including suicidal thoughts.
According to the lawsuit, the book publisher inaccurately portrayed her, an “immigrant of color,” as racist.
“It is ironic that, having taken advantage of her First Amendment rights with an ill-advised tweet, Ms. Tynes now seeks to stifle and punish use of those very same rights of a respected book publisher who legitimately expressed its opinions of her conduct, rather than take responsibility for her own actions,” her lawyer, David S. Eisen, said.
The lawsuit said that Tynes quickly deleted her tweet and tried to ensure that the employee pictured wouldn’t face any consequences. She didn’t think the employee was identifiable in the photo and didn’t think that any “employment action could ever be taken against a union transit worker for such a minor incident.”
The suit added that Tynes faced several death threats and harassment on social media. She was afraid for her safety, so she left the country on a temporary basis. However, Rare Bird Lit Inc. enjoyed the mostly positive reactions they received on social media and gained more exposure, the lawsuit claims.
Tynes is seeking more than $13 million in damages from the lawsuit.