Spencer Lindquist, Daily Wire, October 3, 2023
A man says his career and reputation in the outdoor adventure industry were destroyed when a high-profile mountain climber sponsored by North Face falsely claimed on social media that the man directed racist comments at him in a bar, according to a Monday lawsuit obtained exclusively by The Daily Wire.
The lawsuit alleges that Johnathan Talbot, a former employee of outdoor apparel company Outdoor Research, lost his job after the climber, a black man named Manoah Ainuu, used social media to not only allege that Talbot made racist comments and tried to fight him, but also pressure Outdoor Research to terminate him.
It wasn’t until hours after Talbot and Ainuu had a conversation at a bar in Bozeman, Montana, that Ainuu posted at 3:00 AM on his Instagram with allegations that Talbot was a racist, the lawsuit from America First Legal states. The professional climber said in a series of videos that Talbot came up to introduce himself and asked questions about diversity in the sport, but that it became clear in the conversations that Talbot was a “racist.”
“I hope there are repercussions … ideally an extermination,” one post from Ainuu charges, also bemoaning Talbot’s alleged “gaslighting, toxic masculinity, and white guilt.” The post also alleges that Talbot attempted to fight Ainuu. “Reshare and tag [Outdoor Research] so this boy has consequences for his actions,” another post from Ainuu and reviewed by The Daily Wire read. “Our outdoor microcosm can’t have people like this.”
The posts tagging Outdoor Research called on all his followers to demand that Talbot be fired, and suggested that if they didn’t comply, they were racists too.
“Aye all my (majority) white followers/allies,” Ainuu wrote in text on one video. “This is your call out. My flesh really wanted to educate jon. Self-control is draining and exercised too often. Please help me take care of this boy. I can see if you watch and don’t share, whether from uncomfortability or apathy.”
The posts served their intended purpose, the lawsuit states. Dave Burleson, who was the Global Senior Athlete Coordinator for North Face at the time of the incident, shared Ainuu’s post and reiterated the call to cancel Talbot. “@outdoorresearch please hold your employee John that is in Bozeman right now accountable,” Burleson wrote, adding, “To the racists in the outdoor industry, we will find you and we will remove you.”
Just hours later, Outdoor Research ordered Talbot to leave Bozeman and return to company headquarters. The company also responded in a social media post of its own, writing that “it came to our attention that there was a verbal exchange last night in Bozeman, MT between @adreadedclimber and an [Outdoor Research] employee.” The company’s post said it “does not support or tolerate discriminatory conduct based on race or any other reason, and we take these matters very seriously.”
Talbot told The Daily Wire that the allegations against him are false, and that a later investigation by Outdoor Research confirmed it.
Talbot is not the only individual who alleges that Ainuu levies unsubstantiated accusations of racism against those he’s come in contact with. Ari Novak, a movie producer and ice climber, told The Daily Wire that he’s known Ainuu for six years and has “personally observed him ‘race bait’ multiple individuals aggressively and then claim they ‘wanted to fight him.’”
“It has nothing to do with race. It has everything to do with him not being stable,” Novak said. “Literally anybody can bump into Manoah and suddenly he decides they’re racist, and they could lose their job,” Novak remarked before explaining that the outdoor industry has “gone woke” and contending that The North Face has established an incentive structure that encourages Ainuu’s racial agitation.
Much of Ainnu’s public image appears to be built around his stated effort to diversify the sport of ice climbing, with one article highlighting his climb to the summit of Mount Everest with an all-black team as a feat that showed “the continued diversification of a historically white activity.”