UPI reporter settles suit with evangelist p. 24

By: Editorial Staff

A UNITED PRESS International reporter who filed a $12.75-million lawsuit against the wire service and a religious broadcaster she claimed led a campaign to get her fired, will get a $255,000 settlement from the televangelist.
Julie Brienza sued Milwaukee religious broadcaster Vic Eliason in 1990 after he urged his listeners to call UPI and have Brienza fired because she is a lesbian. She also sued UPI for wrongful dismissal (E&P, Dec. 8, 1990, p. 30).
The incident began when Brienza was a UPI Supreme Court reporter working on a freelance assignment to profile Eliason for the Washington Blade, a gay and lesbian newspaper in Washington, D.C.
She called Eliason, and when he returned her call, he learned she worked for UPI.
Eliason, a UPI subscriber, complained to UPI management, who fired Brienza after numerous Eliason listeners called the wire service to complain.
The company said Brienza was fired for working on a freelance story for an advocacy publication on company time and for using the company’s internal message wire to gather information for the story. At the time, she admitted to the transgressions, although she denied the Blade is an advocacy paper, and expected only a few days’ suspension at most.
The lawsuit against UPI is pending. A UPI spokeswoman told the Associated Press the company would have no comment, since the incident occurred under the old UPI, which was sold in 1992 to Middle East Broadcasting.
Eliason released a statement, explaining that he and his insurance carrier settled the lawsuit to avoid the expense of further litigation.

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