The Orlando Sentinel reports SeaWorld critic and former trainer John Hargrove is coming under scrutiny for repeatedly using the N-word while possibly intoxicated in a video SeaWorld reportedly released Tuesday.
The video comes as Hargrove has begun promoting an anti-SeaWorld book, appearing on The Daily Show last week, but now faces at least one canceled book signing.
The Orlando Sentinel reported that what appears to be a 5-year-old video was sent from Sea World to multiple media outlets. In the video filmed by an unseen person, a man identified as Hargrove is seen laughing at a woman he refers to as “Annie” on the other end of a speakerphone conversation. He tells “Annie” he’s in the bathroom due to excessive drinking. “I’m not on speakerphone,” he tells her while sitting at a table with empty bottles and a glass of wine in front of him. Hargrove is reportedly seen laughing while trying to get “Annie” to confirm details of a story in which he says five ‘N-word’ individuals threw rocks at the back of her head. During the video he repeatedly uses the N-word to describe the alleged attackers and grabs the back of his own head while asking if she felt the pain.
SeaWorld told reporters that the video surfaced through an “internal whistleblower.” The Sentinel reported that SeaWorld spokesman Fred Jacobs called Hargrove’s language offensive and that he would have been fired immediately had the organization been aware of the video during his employment.
Hargrove claimed no remembrance of the events recorded in the video. The article reported Hargrove’s response, “We do a lot of things we shouldn’t do when we drink.”
Hargrove’s book is Beneath the Surface: Killer Whales, SeaWorld, and the Truth Behind Blackfish. When Hargrove appeared on The Daily Show, host Jon Stewart remarked regarding the strong reaction on social media leading up to the interview, “there are people sending us, ‘don’t trust this guy,’ ‘he’s a liar.’” Hargrove dismissed his critics as having a “cult-like mentality.”
Warwick’s of La Jolla, California cited the video’s content in cancelling Hargrove’s prior scheduled book signing, reports the Times of San Diego.
SeaWorld, according to the Sentinel, also told media outlets that Hargrove quit his job “after being disciplined for a severe safety violation involving the park’s killer whales” and resulting transfer out of the Orca stadium. Hargrove has refuted that portrayal of his departure, claiming they are trying to smear him. He claims the company wanted to “punish” him and a series of events led to his departure.
The Sentinel refers to prior reporting on a SeaWorld advertising campaign to counter the volume of criticism it has received including the controversial movie Blackfish. PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has also launched aggressive ad campaigns against the marine mammal organization, having sued in order to have the ad displayed.
Claims continue to fly between Hargrove and SeaWorld, including accusations of false statements. Hargrove’s attorney Steve Berman reportedly filed a lawsuit last week that claims his client has received email threatening to expose past indiscretions after the former trainer’s book release. The Sentinel reported that email’s author said it was not meant to be threatening and was not referring to the video.
Follow Michelle Moons on Twitter @MichelleDiana