U.S. Markets closed

‘Billions’ Portrayal of Cayuga Spurs Lawsuit Against Showtime

Bob Van Voris

(Bloomberg) -- In the hit Showtime series “Billions,” it seems, everybody’s somebody. Ruthless hedge fund titan Bobby Axelrod evokes Steven A. Cohen, the billionaire founder of SAC Capital Advisors. U.S. Attorney Chuck Rhoades is a Preet Bharara type. And then there’s the Cayuga nation, cryptically standing in for ... the Cayuga nation.

It’s that last piece of the roman a clef that got a lawsuit going in which the Native American tribe and a member of its governing council claim Showtime Networks Inc. and the show’s creators trashed their reputation.

According to the lawsuit by the tribe and Council Member Clint Halftown (Jane Halftown in the show), filed Tuesday in New York state court in Manhattan, the episode that aired on May 5 included a “false and defamatory narrative that the Nation and Council Member Halftown had previously been engaged in a casino land deal and an illegal revenue-sharing arrangement.” During the episode, Rhoades’s father refers to the tribe as “my casino Indians,” according to the complaint.

“Billions,” loosely based on the legal battle between Cohen and Bharara, premiered in January 2016. According to the suit, in which Halftown and the Cayuga seek unspecified damages, the eighth episode of the show’s fourth season was a “deliberate and intentional resort to an offensive stereotype of Native Americans as irresponsible, corruptible, and even criminal, thereby exposing the Cayuga Nation and Mr. Halftown to public contempt, aversion, and disgrace.”

Showtime declined to comment on the lawsuit.

To contact the reporter on this story: Bob Van Voris in federal court in Manhattan at rvanvoris@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: David Glovin at dglovin@bloomberg.net, Peter Jeffrey

For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.