Tegna CEO issues apology after mistaking Black board candidate for valet

I take full responsibility for this mistake, and am truly sorry for the pain I caused.’

Tegna CEO Dave Lougee has apologized for mistaking a Black male board candidate for a hotel car valet.

In an email to employees on Monday, Lougee recalled the incident involving Adonis Hoffman at a 2014 industry event and said he immediately “felt terrible” about the mistake, Bloomberg reports.

“As I was leaving the event and looking for my car, I ran into Mr. Hoffman and mistakenly thought he was a hotel valet,” Lougee said in the email. “Mr. Hoffman was understandably offended and upset. I immediately apologized to him and felt terrible.”

Lougee added, “I don’t condone racism of any kind, I take full responsibility for this mistake, and am truly sorry for the pain I caused Mr. Hoffman.”

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Lougee’s apology email comes after Hoffman, an attorney and longtime media figure in Washington circles, withdrew from consideration to serve on Tegna’s board, citing conflicts of interest and “his discomfort in working with Dave Lougee,” the company’s board said Monday.

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TEGNA CEO Dave Lougee and Adonis Hoffman / Twitter

Hoffman issued a statement to the Tegna board in which he detailed his encounter with Lougee at an industry luncheon. Both men were reportedly seated together and had a conversation. Following the event, Lougee handed Hoffman what he thought was a business card, but it was actually a valet ticket. “Oh, I understand,” Hoffman recalled saying. “You saw a brown man in a business suit, and you thought he was the valet? So you want me to go get your car?”

In a statement to Deadline, Hoffman said the incident “was unlike any I have had before or since and has indelibly influenced my view of Mr. Lougee.”

The Tegna board said a review of Lougee’s human-resources file found no evidence “suggesting Dave has ever been accused of any incident of a similar nature.”

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Hoffman was one of four prospective board members put forward by Standard General, one of Tegna largest shareholders. The TV giant has been catching heat from Standard General for not finding a buyer after parting ways with newspaper company Gannett Co. six years ago per Financial Review. Tegna owns local affiliates of broadcast networks such as CBS, NBC and Fox, according to the report.

After Hoffman withdrew his name for consideration, Tegna fired off a statement noting that Lougee “immediately acknowledged the incident and has stated that he made a mistake, for which he had apologized immediately at the time.”

Lougee sent a memo to Tegna employees in which he noted the company’s commitment to diversity. “I hope my mistake doesn’t make you doubt my sincerity or that of the entire leadership team in our strong focus on improving diversity and inclusion at Tegna,” he wrote. Read his full memo below.

Yahoo writes, “About 37% of Tegna’s new hires last year were people of color, and 25% of its 6,427 employees were people of color as of the end of 2020.”

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Below is Lougee’s full internal memo, per Yahoo:

Dear Colleagues,

I want to address an incident from 2014 that is likely to be in the media.

As you may know, a Tegna shareholder has nominated candidates to serve on our

Board of Directors. One candidate, Adonis Hoffman, recently withdrew his candidacy due to what he said were conflicts of interest, but he also cited a 2014 incident with me that took place following an industry event.

It’s important that you hear from me what happened. As I was leaving the event and looking for my car, I ran into Mr. Hoffman and mistakenly thought he was a hotel valet. Mr. Hoffman was understandably offended and upset. I immediately apologized to him and felt terrible. I don’t condone racism of any kind, I take full responsibility for this mistake, and am truly sorry for the pain I caused Mr. Hoffman.

As we have made clear on numerous occasions, our Board and management team

have made it a corporate priority — and I have made it a personal priority — to further strengthen our commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. This unfortunate incident underscores just how important this work is for all of us. Tegna has taken specific actions to ensure our people, content, and company reflect the communities we serve, and we have established numerical goals to drive continuous improvement in the years ahead. More information is available in Tegna’s 2020 Social Responsibility Highlights.

As this report shows, we are making important progress but there is so much more to be done.

Again, I wanted you to hear this directly from me. I hope my mistake doesn’t make you doubt my sincerity or that of the entire leadership team in our strong focus on improving diversity and inclusion at Tegna.

Dave

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