Jeff Duh?, a former award-winning reporter at Louisiana Public Broadcasting, has come forward to tell Accuracy in Media that he was the secret whistleblower who reported Beth Courtney, a member of the board of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), to the Louisiana Board of Ethics, which found her guilty of violating the law and fined her. Duh?, who worked at Louisiana Public Broadcasting for 14 years, is now publicly alleging a pattern of questionable conduct by Courtney, and says that he has a tape-recording to prove it.
The tape includes Courtney yelling and using profanity at Duh?. “If your boss tells you to do something, you do it, and it’s not unethical,” she screams. “You’re out of control.”
As AIM has reported, in a decision handed down on January 12, Courtney and her husband Bob Courtney, who runs a public relations and film and video production company, were found guilty by the Louisiana Board of Ethics of violating conflict of interest laws and ordered to pay a $10,000 fine. One violation involved receiving payments from a private company, which hired Bob Courtney’s firm, and did business with a Louisiana public broadcasting entity that Beth Courtney ran. Under Louisiana’s Code of Ethics, subcontractors are subject to the same nepotism provisions as contractors with the state. Courtney and her husband did not contest the findings.
The state violations jeopardize her seat on the national CPB board. The CPB Code of Ethics and Business Conduct says that “Each employee shall act at all times with integrity and perform his or her duties in compliance with all applicable Federal, state and local laws, and CPB policies and procedures. Each employee shall discharge his or her duties in an honest, candid, and thorough manner.”
Courtney told AIM the state violations were “technical” and didn’t deserve any “gigantic follow-up” from the press. She said she would not resign from the CPB board.
Duh? tells AIM, “The sordid details of her illegal activities pale in comparison to her abusive management style. For decades, a pattern of vicious employee derision has escalated in proportion to her getting away with it. Profanity-filled screaming fits of red-faced intensity are routine. Standing in the halls of the network’s flagship station in Baton Rouge, she curses and stamps like a flapping duck, weaponizing any arcane personal or family information she can call to mind to bludgeon the staff victim into submission.”
Duh? has won numerous journalist awards, including from the Society of Professional Journalists. He also received a prestigious Emmy award.
Another former employee of Louisiana Public Broadcasting has told AIM that he, too, witnessed abusive treatment of employees by Courtney.
Duh? told AIM that his final confrontation with Courtney came in 2004 when he “refused to produce a story on a business I suspected was a client of Bob’s.”
“I tried to resist by staying quiet, ducking the fire,” he tells AIM. “Then I heard ‘I command you?’ Yes, she actually speaks this way. Just after I reported her unethical activities to the Governor’s Executive Counsel, I was fired. A thorough, hate- and profanity-filled screaming fit came first, of course. Anybody want to hear it? I’ve got it in MP3 now. It’s 52-minutes long and includes the Courtney classic, ‘I wrote the book on ethics!’ She also demanded, under direct threat of termination, that I write a personal letter of apology, saying I was wrong to speak of her behavior with the Governor’s Office. There was no way on Earth I was going to pen that.”
Duh? says that he was eventually fired “for refusing to deliver a story which I suspected would serve” the Courtneys personally.
But before she fired him, Duh? says that he compiled a list of 54 occasions “on which I had surrendered to unethical pressures?” He says these included:
“Airing, in News programming, a shortened version of a civil rights documentary produced by Courtney’s husband as promotion for the work.
“Producing a glowing review of a building’s restoration spearheaded by Bob Courtney.
“Accepting, for statewide air, a feature story on arbor enthusiasts promised to the group by their publicity chair, Beth Courtney.
“Including, in Louisiana news, the testimony before Congress of Public Television executives. Guess who testified?
“Producing a favorable review of a children’s book whose author is a friend of Beth Courtney.
“Saying nothing when Beth Courtney entered into a contract to produce and air stories about the state’s cultural agency which would highlight agency achievement. Beth Courtney’s daughter is that Department’s attorney.
“Airing, in News programming, a promotional version of a documentary on Jimmy Davis, produced and narrated by Courtney’s husband.
“Producing a favorable review of a biography as ordered. The book’s author is the sister-in-law of Beth Courtney.
“Allowing, in News programming, a Beth Courtney interview with an author promoting his autobiography. The book’s publisher is LPB. Beth Courtney commandeered News programming to promote a book published by Beth Courtney. This is one for the ethics books.
“Enduring a screaming fit as punishment for airing a story which was not entirely flattering to the state’s cultural agency. The daughter, again.
“Allowing promotional shorts to air, as part of News programming, which advertised an LPB-produced state-history series. The segment featured an interview with Beth Courtney as she praised her agency’s product.”
As allegedly instructed by Beth Courtney, Duh? says that interviews with Bob Courtney were “knitted extensively” into a six-part documentary on Louisiana history, together with historians such as Stephen Ambrose.
AIM made numerous attempts to contact Courtney for a response to Duh?’s allegations, leaving messages with her office at Louisiana Public Broadcasting and the press department at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. None of the messages was returned.
However, Clay Fourrier, executive producer at Louisiana Public Broadcasting, defended Duhe’s firing, saying, “we are the supervisors and he seemed to get to the point where he just didn’t want to do anything except what he wanted to do, and did not seem to want to think that we had any right to tell him what to do.” Regarding the tape-recorded meeting, Fourrier would only say that Courtney was clearly “upset.”
As for his role as a whistleblower, Duh? says that he is proud to have reported Courtney to the state ethics board and to the state Legislative Auditor, in another investigation that is still ongoing. “Now we have firm proof of the veracity of just some of what I and others are willing to say,” he adds.
He wonders “how much more she will push us to reveal.”