Natasha Tynes, the Washington-area author who faced intense backlash last month after publicly shaming a black Metro worker for eating on the train, claims she suffered “extreme emotional distress” after blowback from the incident cost her a book deal.
Now Tynes, a first-time author whose debut novel was due to come out this year, is suing her publisher for $13 million.
In a lawsuit filed in the Superior Court of California, Tynes, who is a communications officer for the World Bank, accuses Rare Bird Books of breaching their publishing contract and defaming her with false public statements that sent her into a panic, according to DCist. The California-based publishing house halted publication of the author’s new book, “They Called Me Wyatt,” last month after fallout over Tynes “ill-advised” tweet.
On May 10, the self-described “social media maven” tweeted a photo of a uniformed Metro worker eating on the training, blasting the woman for breaking the transit authority’s rules against eating and drinking.
“When you’re on your morning commute & see @wmata employee in UNIFORM eating on the train,” Tynes captioned the post. “I thought we weren’t allowed to eat on the train. This is unacceptable. Hope @wmata responds.”
The author said when she confronted the worker over the issue, the woman told her to “worry about herself.”
The Metro authority responded to Tynes “complaint” against the unnamed worker and pressed her for more details, even though Metro Transit Police weren’t issuing citations for eating and drinking at the time, according to a directive from authority’s chief.
The author’s tweet sparked immediate backlash, drawing the ire of social media critics who accused Tynes of being “anti-Black” and feeling so entitled as to endanger the livelihood of another woman over such a small indiscretion.
“Would you still go ahead and buy a book if you know it was written by a bigot who went out of her way to get an African–American lady fired for eating on her way to work?” one Internet user wrote in a scathing review for Tynes now-canceled book, which was set to hit shelves this month.
“I asked myself this question, then decided I’d rather give my money to someone more deserving,” they added.
Tynes quickly deleted the tweet and apologized, saying she was “truly sorry.” In her lawsuit, the Jordanian-American writer claims the issue of race ” had not even occurred” to her when she sent out the tweet.
The complaint states that Tynes contacted WMTA to ensure the employee wasn’t punished.
Her actions that did little to quell the growing controversy, however, and furor over her tweet prompted Rare Bird to distance itself from the author. The publishing house announced last month it was taking steps to “cancel” Tynes by stopping production of her books, which the author is now suing over.
In response, David Eisen, an attorney for Rare Bird Books, called Tynes’ lawsuit “baseless” and revealed to Buzzfeed News that less than 50 copies of her forthcoming book had been pre-ordered.
“It’s ironic that, having taken advantage of her First Amendment rights with an ill-advised tweet, Ms. Tynes now seeks to stifle and punish use of those very same rights of a respected book publisher who legitimately expressed its opinions of her conduct, rather than take responsibility for her own actions,” Eisen told the outlet in a statement. “Ms. Tynes would have been better served to have simply let this episode disappear into the annals of history.”
In May, the publishing house condemned Tynes’ “truly horrible” actions and noted that “Black women face a constant barrage of this kind of inappropriate behavior directed toward them and a constant policing of their bodies.”
“We … have no desire to be involved with anyone who thinks it’s acceptable to jeopardize a person’s safety and employment in this way,” the company wrote on Twitter.
Tynes’ complaint states that after Rare Bird and California Coldblood Books, a sci-fi division of the publisher, both issued scathing statements against her, the writer was hospitalized with chest pains and hyperventilation as the result of an “acute anxiety reaction” sparked by the online uproar. The suit alleges that things got so bad that Tynes was pushed “to the brink of suicide.”
The author and her family also suffered weeks of online harassment, threats and racial slurs from critics who dubbed her a “terrorist,” and “a plane bomber,” the lawsuit states. On May 21, Tynes temporarily fled the States for her native Jordan out of fear that her 1-year-old, 7-year-old twins and husband might be subjected to violence. The lawsuit accuses the company of subjecting “an immigrant woman of color to this racial torment for their own personal profit.”
The complaint argues Tynes had no intention of shaming the Metro worker, but adds that as a busy author and mother of three with a day job, Tynes often didn’t get a chance to eat before hopping on the train. Thus, she commuted on an empty stomach out of fear she would be ticketed for eating on the Metro.
“She would have enjoyed such privileges” as enjoying her breakfast on the train — like the employee — the complaint states.