Christian Cooper is a writer and editor based in New York City, currently a senior biomedical editor at Health Science Communications. But his career also included working Marvel Comics as a writer and an editor, writing Marvel Comics Presents, Darkhold series Excalibur and editing X-Men, as well as writing the Star Trek: Starfleet Academy comic, co-creating the first openly gay Star Trek character, Yoshi Mishima.
He hit the headlines in May last year for very different reasons, as a lifelong bird-watcher visiting Central Park with his sister, Melody Cooper, writer of the Omni comic from Humanoids. Christian Cooper told one Amy Cooper (no relation), then a VP at Franklin Templeton Investments (FTI), to leash her dog in an area of the park, where pets must be kept under control, with Melody filming the encounter when it got heated.
Amy was seen refusing to leash her dog, told Christian to stop filming her and her dog, and threatening him that she will call the police to tell them that an African-American is threatening her. She then proceeded to do just that on camera. The filming only stopped when Amy then leashed her dog, and he thanked her.
The incident went viral online, hours ahead of the video of the murder of George Floyd. The encounter was interpreted as Amy endangering Christian's life, calling the police and specifying that she was being threatened by a Black man as if that might encourage police to react in a certain way.
Amy Cooper voluntarily surrendered the dog to a shelter and was put on administrative leave by FTI and later fired. In an apology statement, Amy Cooper said, "I want to apologize to Chris Cooper for my actions when I encountered him in Central Park yesterday. I reacted emotionally and made false assumptions about his intentions when, in fact, I was the one who was acting inappropriately by not having my dog on a leash. When Chris began offering treats to my dog and confronted me in an area where there was no one else nearby and said, "You're not going to like what I'm going to do next," I assumed we were being threatened when all he had intended to do was record our encounter on his phone. He had every right to request that I leash my dog in an area where it was required. I am well aware of the pain that misassumptions and insensitive statements about race cause and would never have imagined that I would be involved in the type of incident that occurred with Chris. I hope that a few mortifying seconds in a lifetime of forty years will not define me in his eyes and that he will accept my sincere apology."
But now, she seems to have had a change of heart about that apology. This week Amy Cooper appeared on Bari Weiss' Honestly podcast, sponsored by The Spectator, and talking to guest podcaster Kmele Foster. The podcast states, "Amy Cooper was not the internet's first "Karen" — the pejorative used for a demanding, entitled white woman. But as the Central Park dog walker who went viral for calling the police on a black birdwatcher last year, she quickly became the paragon of the archetype. Within 24 hours, Amy Cooper had been doxxed, fired from her job, and surrendered her dog. She wound up fleeing the country. She hasn't spoken publicly since last summer, until now. In a wide-ranging interview with Kmele Foster, a friend of Honestly and co-host of The Fifth Column, we revisit the story of what happened in the park that day. We show what the media intentionally left out of the story. And we examine the cost of mob justice."
The podcast quotes Amy stating that Christian allegedly threatened her when she refused to leash her dog in the restricted area, saying to her, "If you're going to do what you want to do, then I'm going to do what I want to do, but you're not going to like it". Amy states that she thought "I'm trying to figure out what that means? Is that a physical attack on me? An attack on my dog? What is he about to do? Before I could even figure out how to process this, he pulls out dog treats, and I'm like, 'What the heck is this guy doing?' I look up, and he's holding these dog treats in one hand and a bike helmet in his other hand, and I'm thinking, 'Oh my god, is this guy going to lure my dog over and try to hit him with his bike helmet?' And if I end up over there, am I going to get hit by this bike helmet?" Amy also says that she felt she didn't have a choice but to call the police and that "I don't know that as a woman alone in a park that I had another option."
In the podcast, Amy also says that she was further afraid when Christian Cooper had a weak-sounding voice when talking to her. "It's really weird because he's still standing there, you know, same very physical posture, and suddenly out of him comes this voice from a man who's been very dominant towards me. Suddenly, you know, almost this victimized voicing, "Don't come near me. Don't come any closer",' she says. Like, almost like he's terrified of me … To me, that's even more terrifying now because you've gone from screaming at me – if you kept screaming at me, at least it was consistent, but now his whole verbal demeanor has changed."
Amy Cooper was charged with a count of falsifying an incident report. But this February, prosecutors dropped their charges stating that Amy had learned her lesson after completing five therapy sessions. Amy also stated that the investigation against her by her former employer was not legitimate, and she is suing them for damages for race and gender discrimination, defamation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligence.
There is also the issue regarding why she threatened to call the police, specifying she was being "threatened by an African American man." Something she proceeded to do, asking for the police to "call a cop immediately," along with the implications that many read into what that might lead to. It seems that much of her justification for her actions were all in her head rather than in reality. The podcast skirts around this issue, confusing the idea of someone threatening to take an action with someone threatening someone's life. The context of people who like dogs and those who do not, of conflict between bird watchers and those who keep dogs off the leash, and previous actions over this issue by Cooper and others in the park are brought up. But if that was all this was, this video would not have gone viral in the way that it did. It was Amy's very specific language and all that it implied that did that, and the podcast really tries to muddy the waters.
Kmele and Bari attribute the language in part to the reception on Amy's phone being poor and that Christian did threaten her (though not threatening her physically). Moreover, they also conflate the event of Amy giving a physical description of Christian to the police as an African-American man, with Amy previously threatening that she will tell the police that he is African American. Amy tells Kmele, "I was in a situation, a woman, I was alone in the park, I had been threatened multiple times at this point, my dog was trying to be lured away from me, if it had been a white man I would have said there's a white man is threatening me, if it had been a white woman I would have said a white woman is threatening me, it was a descriptive term." But when she was first threatening Christian, she wasn't on the phone to the police. She wasn't using it as a descriptive term to anyone at that point, aside from Christian, who definitely already knew he was Black. That specific distinction between the two uses of the phrase is not made by the podcast, nor put to Amy Cooper.
Amy was charged with a count of falsifying an incident report. But this February, prosecutors dropped their charges stating that Amy had learned her lesson in therapy. When asked by the podcast about what she would ask Christian Cooper, Amy said, "I have zillion questions of course in my head or things I'd like to say, but the one that really, I really would just like to start and open this conversation with is, 'You scared me.' And really just leave it there and leave it to him to respond back to me as to what he wants to say back to that because I think that opens the door to a conversation." Possibly why Amy was scared of Christian, why she thought he was going to attack her with a bike helmet, why his soft voice scared her more, and why she described him as an "African-American" to himself, and that she would use that language to the police?"
In May 2020, Amy Cooper issued a public apology, Christian accepted it and did not press charges himself. It's not known what Christian will do now that Amy seems to have taken that apology back by justifying her actions. Since those events, Christian turned his experience into a comic book for DC Comics; It's A Bird, drawn by Alitha Martinez. He has also been criticised by others on social media for accepting Amy's apology and not taking it any further at the time. Melody Cooper continued to write the Omni comic from Humanoids, is also working as a Story Editor on Law & Order: SVU, and is an Episodic Lab Fellow for Idea Lab at Sundance Institute. Here is the Facebook post and video, as it happened.