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Ed Schultz to 'aggressively' fight lawsuit by ex-associate

FARGO - A lawsuit that claims Ed Schultz stiffed a business partner out of a promised share of revenue from the daily political talk show he hosts on MSNBC is baseless, his lawyer says.

The attorney for Schultz, a longtime TV and radio personality in Fargo before he landed a punditry gig on the liberal cable network in 2009, said they have no plans to settle the case.

"We're going to aggressively defend this," his attorney, Jeff Landa, said Wednesday. "There is no contract. There's never been a contract."

The plaintiff behind the lawsuit, Michael Queen, is alleging in a federal lawsuit that Schultz agreed to have him pitch a political show on his behalf in 2008 and 2009 in exchange for a 25 percent share of profits from the show.

Queen, a broadcast engineer at NBC, claims he has a trove of emails from Schultz showing there was an enforceable agreement, though he concedes there was never anything signed.

"I will not do a TV deal without your involvement and that includes a financial involvement," reads a segment of an email Queen attributes to Schultz in the civil complaint. Another email quoted in the lawsuit refers to Queen getting the 25 percent chunk of after-expenses revenue.

Landa said Schultz had an agreement with Queen on just one specific project: a Sunday morning show that would have been taped at the CBS affiliate in Washington, D.C., with hopes of expanding the program into syndication.

"The numbers weren't there. It was never going to make any money," Landa said of that project, which was to be modeled on "The McLaughlin Group."

Queen says he tried and failed to pitch the Schultz project in April 2008 to Phil Griffin, MSNBC president, but Landa said he had no authority to do so. Griffin offered Schultz a weekday slot on the network a little less than a year later.

"Queen had nothing to do with the show," Landa said.

An e-mail message sent to Queen on Wednesday seeking comment on Landa's claims wasn't returned.

A producer for Schultz said on Tuesday the talk-show host wouldn't have a comment on the lawsuit.

Landa denied that Queen found an apartment in D.C. for Schultz and his wife, a claim Queen included in the lawsuit filed Tuesday.

"I was there with them when they were out looking for apartments," Landa said.

The attorney also denied Schultz had to be ordered by MSNBC management to pay an $11,500 bill covering expenses Queen incurred in shooting a pilot episode of a Schultz show to shop to networks, which Queen alleged in his complaint.

Landa said Schultz paid the bill as soon as he got it, adding nearly $1,000 to the amount owed in order to cover some items Schultz's wife had Queen buy when they moved to Washington briefly at the start of 2009.

Schultz's attorney also disputes Queen's assertion that he had the backing of Tim Russert, the late NBC News Washington bureau chief, in pitching the show.

"Nobody in the D.C. office was ever told by Russert he had any interest in doing a show with Ed," Landa said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535