Cunningham's talk show faces lawsuit in Chicago

Bill "Willie" Cunningham
Bill "Willie" Cunningham

CHICAGO, IL (FOX19) - Bill Cunningham's new TV talk show, which he filmed in Chicago last week, is facing a lawsuit before the first episode even airs.

According to a suit filed in Cook County Circuit Court, the mothers of some child beauty pageant contestants say they were accused of physically and sexually abusing their children during the taping of the show. They also added that after their children went backstage, Cunningham and members of the studio audience continued to verbally accost them. When the mothers locked themselves in a room in an attempt to protect their children, they said the producers and staff began kicking in the door.

The suit names Tribune Broadcasting Company, Cunningham and one of the show's producers. The plaintiffs are claiming battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent misrepresentation and violation of right of publicity. They are seeking $50,000 in damages and want all footage of the show's taping destroyed.

Cunningham told FOX19 he asked the mothers questions during the show about how much it cost them to put their children in beauty pageants and what they received if they won. Cunningham said he had a problem with young children "flirting with grown men in the front row."

"This is not about publicity," said Cunningham. "It's about protecting America's children."

The talk show, titled "Big Willie" was taped earlier this month at Chicago TV flagship WGN. FOX19 is scheduled to air the show beginning later this month or in July.

The Chicago Tribune, which is owned by the Tribune Co., said the company is declining comment. Cunningham said the Tribune Co. is handling the lawsuit.

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