Amy Cooper, who worked as a vice president and head of investment solutions at Franklin Templeton Investments in New York City, was publicly fired today (May 26) after a Memorial Day incident that went viral on social media.
Cooper, who earned her MBA at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, was let go by Franklin Templeton after an internal review of a videotaped encounter with a black man in Central Park who had asked her to abide by park rules and put her dog on a leash. When he whipped out his smartphone to video the incident, she charged him in a threatening manner, coming within inches of him.
She initially refused to put her dog on a leash, instead threatening the 57-year-old man, Christian Cooper, a Harvard graduate who works in communications. She screamed that she would call the police to falsely report that he was putting her life in jeopardy. “I’m going to tell them there’s an African American man threatening my life.”
‘SHE CALLED THE POLICE BECAUSE HE WAS A BLACK MAN’
When she was on the line to the police department, she nervously shouted, “There is an African American man. I am in Central Park. He is recording me and threatening myself and my dog.” Then, despite no apparent movement or threat from Christian Cooper, she brought her voice to a higher pitch. “I’m being threatened by a man in the Ramble!” she cried into the phone. “Please send the cops immediately!”
Posted to Twitter on Memorial Day, the video has been viewed more than 30 million times, touching off a storm of discussion about police being falsely called on black people, sometimes putting their lives in danger.
Franklin Templeton made its decision after reviewing the incident that has widely been viewed as racist and prompted a storm of Twitter posts including one from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. “The video out of Central Park is racism, plain and simple,” wrote Mayor de Blasio. “She called the police BECAUSE he was a Black man. Even though she was the one breaking the rules. She decided he was the criminal and we know why. This kind of hatred has no place in our city.”
“Following our internal review of the incident in Central Park’s Ramble area yesterday, we have made the decision to terminate the employee involved, effective immediately. We do not tolerate racism of any kind at Franklin Templeton,” the company noted on its Twitter feed.
Cooper has been apologetic, saying she reacted out of fear. “I’m not a racist,” she insisted to CNN. “I did not mean to harm that man in any way. [My] entire life is being destroyed right now. I think I was just scared. When you’re alone in the Ramble, you don’t know what’s happening. It’s not excusable, it’s not defensible.”
COOPER DESCRIBED HERSELF AS ‘A RECOGNIZED INDUSTRY LEADER IN INSURANCE’
The incident occurred at a time when there is a national conversation in the U.S. about race relations. On the same day, a police officer in Minneapolis held down a black man with his knee while the man pleaded with the police officer that he could not breathe. The man died and since then four Minneapolis police officers have been fired for their involvement in the death. Meantime, in Georgia, a 25-year-old black man out for a jog was shot to death by two white men. But it took months before the police arrested the men and charged them with murder and aggravated assault in the killing.
The Central Park video—made public by the sister of the man who asked Cooper to put her dog on a leash—shows Amy Cooper, 41, telling Christian Cooper she would be calling the police on him and saying she would tell dispatchers he was threatening her and her dog. Christian Cooper is a former Marvel Comics editor and writer who now works as a senior biomedical editor at Health Science Communications.
The video does not show Christian Cooper, who was bird watching in Central Park, making any threats but does show him standing away from Amy Cooper and encouraging her to call the police, while also asking her to stay away from him. Christian Cooper said he started recording the incident when she refused to put a leash on her dog and when she moved toward him.
According to her now-deleted LinkedIn profile, Cooper has worked at Franklin since 2015. The profile described her as the leader of “the insurance portfolio management and strategy business at Franklin Templeton. She has dedicated her career to delivering and executing investment solutions for insurance and pension companies globally. … She is a recognized industry leader in insurance accounting and regulatory issues, asset-liability management, and strategic asset allocation. She has worked in a variety of insurance-focused roles.”
SHE ALSO WORKED AT AIG, CITI AND LEHMAN BROTHERS
A native of Canada, she studied at the University of Waterloo in Ontario from 1998 to 2003, graduating with a degree in actuarial science. She earned her MBA in analytical finance at Chicago’s Booth School in 2009. Before working at Franklin Templeton, Amy Cooper worked at AIG, Citi, Lehman Brothers and Willis Towers Watson.
Christian Cooper put his version of the event on his Facebook page. “Central Park this morning: This woman’s dog is tearing through the plantings in the Ramble,” he wrote before describing the conversation he says occurred before he began recording with his cell phone:
ME: Ma’am, dogs in the Ramble have to be on the leash at all times. The sign is right there.
HER: The dog runs are closed. He needs his exercise.
ME: All you have to do is take him to the other side of the drive, outside the Ramble, and you can let him run off leash all you want.
HER: It’s too dangerous.
ME: Look, if you’re going to do what you want, I’m going to do what I want, but you’re not going to like it.
HER: What’s that?
ME (to the dog): Come here, puppy!
HER: He won’t come to you.
ME: We’ll see about that…
‘I SINCERELY AND HUMBLY APOLOGIZE TO EVERYONE’
He then produced some dog treats, which he explained, he carries because it forces owners to leash their dogs to prevent the animal from snacking.
“I pull out the dog treats I carry for just for such intransigence,” he wrote. “That’s when I started video recording with my iPhone, and when her inner Karen fully emerged and took a dark turn,” he said, using the name Karen, which has become slang for an entitled white woman.
Cooper has since apologized for the incident. “I sincerely and humbly apologize to everyone, especially to that man, his family,” she told NBC New York. “It was unacceptable and I humbly and fully apologize to everyone who’s seen that video, everyone that’s been offended … everyone who thinks of me in a lower light and I understand why they do.”
Meantime, the dog rescue from which Amy Cooper adopted her dog also has taken him back.
Oh, when Karens take a walk with their dogs off leash in the famous Bramble in NY’s Central Park, where it is clearly posted on signs that dogs MUST be leashed at all times, and someone like my brother (an avid birder) politely asks her to put her dog on the leash. pic.twitter.com/3YnzuATsDm
— Melody Cooper (@melodyMcooper) May 25, 2020