EXCLUSIVE: Similar to so many family ruptures in America in recent years, Ingo Rademacher’s legal dispute with ABC over his 2021 firing from General Hospital comes down to Donald Trump and the politics of vaccines, according to the former soap opera actor.
Heading towards a pivotal March 30 summary judgement hearing on the more than a year old lawsuit, plaintiff Rademacher’s attorneys filed paperwork yesterday opposing the Disney-owned network’s motion to toss the case out. “ABC had a duty to accommodate Ingo,” insists the filing by lawyers Scott J. Street and John W. Howard over their client’s religious exemption request over corporate Covid vaccine requirements (read it here). “Instead, it put him through a sham process that was designed to fail, and which was meant to cover up the real reason for Ingo’s termination: his political views.”
Or to be more specific, Rademacher alleges he was really axed because GH EP Frank Valentini and others on the show objected to him voting for Trump in 2020 and decrying the “false hope” of getting the jab:
…the show’s producers and writers did not like his comments about Donald Trump and restrictive Covid policies, so they wrote him off the show and decided to “recast” the role. That meant hiring somebody else to play Ingo’s character. There was a problem, though: Ingo was one of the most popular actors on General Hospital. He was under contract until June 2022 and the producers had previously discussed extending his deal. Criticism of Ingo’s political commentary also led to the creation of the #FireIngo, which was trending around the time ABC decided to axe him. So, instead of being honest with Ingo, ABC used the Covid vaccine policy as an excuse to get rid of him.
A two-decade and counting veteran of the six-decade running daytimer, Rademacher was canned from his GH “Jasper Jacks” role in late 2021 for refusing to comply with the House of Mouse’s Covid vaccine mandate, according to ABC. He wasn’t the only one. Fellow actor Steve Burton was pink slipped in November 2021 over not taking the vaccine, as were some crew members. Unlike Burton, on December 13, 2021, the openly vax-sceptic German-Australian Rademacher went after ABC for his firing with a wide-ranging civil rights lawsuit. Long lawsuit short: Rademacher claimed the network’s denial of a religious exemption from the vaccine mandate for him was a strident example of discrimination.
After various briefs and other documents in the LA Superior Court’s docket, ABC moved earlier this year to have the whole thing dismissed. Citing its responsibility to provide a “safe work environment” in a pandemic and otherwise, the network also rejected Rademacher’s own motion to have the court decided on a summary adjudication of his religious discrimination claim under the Fair Employment and Housing Act.
Like the deep divides in America 2023, Rademacher and ABC seem to living in two very different worlds when it comes to this lawsuit and the events that led to it.
“When the content of Rademacher’s religious exemption request, and his conduct in support of his request, is considered, it is undisputed that none of the beliefs stated in his request, or explained to ABC, were either ‘religious’ within the meaning of the law or sincerely held, as required under the FEHA,” states ABC’s Paul Hastings LLP lawyers in their own opposition filing of March 16 (read it here). “In truth, Rademacher lacks an answer to the ultimate question because …his religion has absolutely nothing to draw from beyond his own imagination – no writings, no leaders, no creed, no history, no clergy, nothing,” the network stingingly adds. “There is no religion to join,” Rademacher is said to have told Erin Nguyen, Director- Employee Relations at Walt Disney Television, when questioned in his petition for an exemption.
ABC points out to the court that the company did give a number of employees a religious exemption over the vaccine. However, none of those exemptions were on General Hospital, it seems
Mocking the actor’s December 15, 2021 appearance with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson and apparent “revisionist” finessing of his beliefs in the months since first filing his lawsuit, ABC, with a typo of 2022 where they mean 2021, conclude: “Nothing can turn back time and enable Rademacher to address the deficiencies in his religious exemption request back in October 2022.”
Clearly feeling they’re now holding some smokin’ guns, that’s not how Rademacher’s lawyers see it.
Orbiting around a July 2021 decision by then Disney CEO Bob Chapek to require all employees of the media giant to be vaccinated against Covid, and and an alleged lack of statute required attempt by Disney to accommodate those seeking religious exemptions, Radmacher’s March 16 filing takes a scalpel to ABC’s public pose of non-compliance on his part. “Things changed last summer when ABC produced documents showing that GH producers had decided to drop Ingo from the show even before ABC adopted the Covid vaccine policy, in response to Ingo’s commentary about politics and Covid policies,” this most recent filing says. “The case also took a turn last December when ABC turned over documents that showed it had initially decided not to mandate the Covid shots then changed the policy, virtually overnight, at the end of July 2021.”
In a deposition for the case, Rademacher has professed that being cut from GH in the manner he was meant unable to find work on other television shows and, under financial distress, had to move my family from California to Florida.” Now the primary caregiver to his three children while his wife has returned to the workforce, the Trump supporting Rademacher declared “I don’t consider myself conservative or liberal …I care about issues, especially the environment, privacy rights and the freedom of speech.”
When contacted by Deadline, ABC had no comment on Rademacher’s latest filing.
On the other hand, up against the biggest media corporation in town, Rademacher’s main attorney did have something to say. “Our discovery has revealed that ABC got rid of Ingo because of his political views, views that the company disagreed with,” says Scott J. Street. “We’re confident in the case that we build in the discover progress and we’re confident that the judge will give us a chance to present this case to a jury.”
We will see in just under two weeks if that confidence is warranted.
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