Firestorm

How a controversial tweet about a black female transit worker sparked a $13 million lawsuit

The Washington, D.C., Metro. (Photo by Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images)

An award-winning Jordanian American author has sued her publishing house for $13 million, alleging that the publisher defamed her when it canceled her book deal after she sent a tweet that sparked an online firestorm.

On May 10, Natasha Tynes tweeted a photo of a black female transit worker in Washington, D.C., who was breaking the rules by eating on a train.

“When you’re on your morning commute & see @wmata employee in UNIFORM eating on the train,” Tynes tweeted, according to The Washington Post. “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.'”

Tynes deleted the tweet within a half hour and apologized for the “short-lived expression of frustration,” the Post reported, citing court documents. She also contacted the transit worker’s employer to ask that she not be disciplined, according to the Post, and the suit says no action was taken against the employee.

But the tweet had already gone viral, sparking fury. Accused of racism, Tynes became the subject of racial slurs herself, being called a “terrorist,” “a plane bomber,” “un-American,” and “a radical Muslim,” The Post reported, citing the lawsuit.

In response to the controversy, her publisher, Rare Bird Books, released a statement calling her tweet — which it described as the policing of a black woman’s body — “something truly horrible,” according to the Post. The publisher said it would halt shipments of an upcoming book by Tynes and take “appropriate next steps to officially cancel the book’s publication.”

The publisher said on Twitter, “We think this is unacceptable and have no desire to be involved with anyone who thinks it’s acceptable to jeopardize a person’s safety and employment in this way,” according to the Post.

Her attorney, William Moran, said, “What Rare Bird has done to Natasha Tynes is just beyond abhorrent,” according to the Post. “I’ve never seen a publisher throw an author under the bus like this before.”

Read the full story at The Washington Post.

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