A top iHeartMedia executive is out of a job after video of him using racist language was made public.
A Black executive recorded iHeartMedia Atlanta president Drew Lauter yelling at a hired driver to “run over Negroes,” and using the N-word while leaving a charity event last August.
Attorneys for the anonymous employee said he gave iHeartMedia a copy of the video months ago. The company released it to WSB-TV in Atlanta after inaction by the company.
iHeartMedia said it hired an independent firm to investigate the incident. Meg Stevens, the senior vice president of programming at iHeart Atlanta, confirmed in a statement that Lauter is no longer with the radio broadcast company.
“Allegations of this nature go against both our company values and our policies and we take them very seriously,” the statement read. “As soon as they were brought to our attention, we acted quickly, retaining an outside investigator to conduct a thorough review, and when we received the outside investigator’s findings, we immediately took decisive action. The employee is no longer with the company.”
Lauter, who appears intoxicated in the video, had “multiple substances, not entirely of the liquid form” before the racist outbursts, said attorney Jason Castle, who represents the Black employee.
“Run over Negroes and Negroes … and fat…,” Lauter says in the cell phone footage. He was riding in the car with other executives.
Lauter also groped the driver and hurled around the N-word multiple times.
“Are you Black, or are you white? I don’t know. No one cares,” Lauter yells. He then gets verbally aggressive with the driver.
However, according to Castle’s client, it was not the first time the regional leader used the racist language. The Black executive who left the company this past August recorded it as proof of the hostile work environment he had to endure.
“This wasn’t a gotcha moment, he said it in the presence of four executive employees, one of whom happened to be Black,” said Castle. “People are going into work, day in and day out and they are enduring this type of environment, this type of discrimination.”
Carter pointed out that what’s also alarming about Lauter’s behavior is that the company produces programming that targets Black listeners.
iHeartradio has more than 860 live broadcast stations in 160 markets across the country. In Atlanta, it oversees the WBIN 640 Black Information Network and 103.5 The Beat, which features mostly Black talent.
Garrett Stolt, vice president for sales at iHeartMedia Atlanta, was terminated last Thursday, along with Lauter, but it is unclear if Stolt is connected to the incident.
Lauter joined iHeartMedia in Madison, Wisconsin, in September 2019, before moving to Atlanta in 2020. He previously worked with several startup tech companies. Last year, iHeartMedia Atlanta announced a multi-year partnership with Atlanta-based Operation HOPE to help 10,000 Black entrepreneurs.
“We are excited to partner with Operation HOPE to grow Black business ownership here in Atlanta,” Lauter said in a June 2021 statement. “Our city is the epicenter for entrepreneurial energy and we are proud to use iHeart’s considerable resources to help owners of Black businesses achieve their dreams.”
Carter said his client is considering taking legal action against iHeartMedia. The Black senior sales executive joined iHeartMedia in 2021, and left in the summer of 2022.
“These things are deplorable,” Carter said.