Former Trump Advisor Backs Lawsuit Against Hollywood’s Diversity Quota

By: Alyssa Miller | Published: Mar 10, 2024

Diversity and inclusion have been something more and more people are pushing for in Hollywood. Now, it has become the entertainment industry’s lifeline and more moviegoers of color drive the box office success of a film.

While diversity has proven to perform well on and off the screen, a “SEAL Team” writer is suing CBS Studios and its parent company Paramount for alleging discrimination through the network’s diversity quota.

Why Is a Script Coordinator Suing? 

Brian Beneker, a script coordinator for “SEAL Team,” filed a lawsuit in the California federal court, with representation from a legal group funded by former Donald Trump adviser and far-right anti-immigration activist Stephen Miller.

A still from "SEAL Team" of four men carrying a wounded soilder

Source: Paramount/YouTube

According to the Guardian, the lawsuit seems to be an effort against Hollywood’s improvement for diversity following the Supreme Court’s decision to dismantle affirmative action.

“Less Qualified” Writers Were Given Staff Writer Jobs.

The lawsuit claims that Beneker was denied a staff writer job on the show multiple times after the implementation of an “illegal policy of race and sex balancing” that supported hiring a diverse team that was “less qualified” and “members of more preferred groups.”

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Beneker is seeking at least $500,000 and a court order making him a full-time producer on the CBS series. This would also put an end to diversity-based hiring practices.

Former Trump Adviser Backs the Case

America First Legal Foundation has filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging that corporate diversity practices go against civil rights guidelines at major companies like McDonald’s and Starbucks.

Donald Trump in a black suit talking into a microphone

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The script coordinator’s lawsuit against CBS makes history because no one has ever filed a lawsuit like this against an entertainment company before (via the Hollywood Reporter).

Beneker Has Been to “SEAL Team” Since 2017

Beneker worked as a script coordinator for “SEAL Team” since the show’s first season in 2017, occasionally writing some episodes as a freelancer.

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The script coordinator claims that the studio favored candidates who are women or people of color for staff writing positions, despite him being denied multiple times, even though those candidates had less experience.

Beneker Claims Diversity Quota is Why He Didn’t Get the Job

In his complaint, Beneker stated that in 2019, he asked a superior why CBS had hired a black writer instead of him, and received the response that the network needed to meet a diversity quota for its writers’ room.

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“During Season 6 (in approximately May of 2022), two female writer’s assistants, without any writing credits, were hired as staff writers,” the complaint says. “The first of these two hires was black. The second identified as lesbian.”


CBS Has an Alleged Diversity Quota to Make

According to a 2022 interview with CBS Entertainment Group’s CEO, George Cheeks (via the Guardian), the network had set a goal to create diverse writers’ rooms with at least 40 percent minorities for primetime series in the 2021-2022 season.

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In an effort to “more accurately reflect diversity both on-screen and behind the camera,” the network pushed the diversity goal to 50 percent for all series for the 2022-2023 season.


Writers’ Rooms Still Lack Diversity

While there have been improvements in diversity in writers’ rooms in recent years, Hollywood studios are still lacking opportunities.

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“At the rate we’re going in, writers of color, who make up a good chunk of lower-level writers and mid-level writers won’t be able to stay in the industry,” said Renard, a writer on “Secrets of Sulphur Springs” and a liaison between the Writers Guild of America (WGA) and members, (via Reuters).


Collaborative Writers’ Rooms Have an Impact on Stories

According to the WGA 2022 Inclusion & Equity Report, white men still dominate writers’ rooms by the majority (56.3 percent). “Like other industry watchers, we are closely monitoring these trends and exploring what impact they might have on opportunities for women and people of color to tell authentic stories,” said Michael Tran, a UCLA graduate student studying sociology and a co-author of the report (via UCLA).

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“The racial and gender dynamics in a collaborative writers’ room have an enormous impact on the types of stories that are told.”


Beneker’s Lawsuit Comes After the Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard Decision

However, Beneker believes that he was the right person for the job and alleges that they passed him up in favor of diversity, a practice ruled against by the U.S. Supreme Court less than a year ago in Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard.

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The court ruled that university diversity guidelines for admission violated the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.


How Does This Decision Affect Companies? 

While the ruling does not directly affect companies governed by federal and state anti-discrimination laws, there is likely to be a wave of lawsuits against diversity practices from companies, including in the entertainment industry.

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In his complaints, Beneker asserted that the studio’s diversity practices create a situation where heterosexual, white men need ‘extra’ qualifications (including military experience or previous writing credits) to be hired as staff writers when compared to their nonwhite, LGBTQ, or female peers.


Is Beneker in the Right? 

The complaint questions the legality of corporate diversity, equity, and inclusion programs that specifically address race in the workplace. Entertainment companies have pushed diversity, but reports still show that white men remain the majority in writers’ rooms.

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While Beneker believes that he isn’t getting into a writers’ room because he does “not check any diversity boxes” as a straight, white man, it will be interesting to see which writers’ room will let him in after this lawsuit.