A lawsuit filed in the Manhattan Supreme Court yesterday by a former Dateline NBC reporter alleges that she was pressured by her superior to act as a "sexual decoy" by responding to sex advertisements online. 33-year-old Kimberly Lengle is accusing her supervising producer of instructing female employees to send photographs of themselves to targets and assigning Lengle an interview with a Craigslist poster calling himself the "Sperminator"... for a segment that never even aired.
Lengle is suing NBC Universal for discrimination. She alleges that the supervising producer of the Dateline segment "Wild, Wild Web," Dan Slepian, regularly tasked her to respond specifically to sexually charged advertisements (despite having knowledge that these segments would not air), making romantic overtures towards her, and subjecting her to abuse and ridicule when she attempted to refuse particular assignments. After months of tension caused by erratic and discriminatory behavior by Slepian and unproductive exchanges with NBC's Human Resources Department, Lengle quit, according to the lawsuit.
Slepian allegedly pressured most of the female staff to send photographs and focus on sexually charged leads. In one incident, Lengle responded to an ad for sex and painkillers and met the target in a Las Vegas cigar bar for a segment that never aired. In another, Lengle answered an advertisement for sex, thinly veiled as a search for a personal assistant, and the suit claims that Slepian then directed Lengle "to ask the target if he liked cigars and to use a winking emoticon," explaining that the individual would know it is a reference to President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky.
The suit also states that when the only female assistant producer responded to a sperm donor ad, the "Sperminator" sent the producer naked pictures of himself with a box covering his genitals, and eventually Slepian assigned the interview to Lengle. She met with him and the interview never aired.
Hansen developed the "Wild, Wild Web" segment in an attempt to replicate the success of To Catch A Predator, which despite its massive popularity stopped airing new episodes in 2007 after the suicide of one of its targets, subsequent lawsuit, and a number of allegations of entrapment and impropriety.
Lengle claims she is still receiving harassing text messages from targets she approached during her time at NBC, and is suing for an unspecified amount of damages. A spokeswoman for NBC News said in a statement, "We took this freelancer's allegations very seriously and determined that her claims were entirely without merit. We will vigorously defend our position in this case."