La Jolla bookstore cancels ex-SeaWorld trainer's book signing - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

La Jolla bookstore cancels ex-SeaWorld trainer's book signing

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SAN DIEGO (CBS 8) - A La Jolla bookstore canceled a book-signing by an author critical of SeaWorld.

The author is a former killer whale trainer at the theme park in San Diego.

SeaWorld says it did not pressure Warwick's in La Jolla to cancel the event.

Cellphone video from about 5 years ago shared by SeaWorld said an internal whistleblower leaked the recording this past weekend of John Hargrove, who at the time was a killer whale trainer, spewing racial slurs while on the phone with a friend about an assault.

Now the owner of Warwick's in La Jolla says she is canceling Hargrove's book signing of “Beneath the Surface” released last week bashing SeaWorld and its captive orca practices.

"The cancellation is a statement of our feelings about what is in the video,” said Nancy Warwick, Warwick's owner, “This is the one and only reason we canceled our event with John Hargrove."

However, the host of the signing says the bookstore owner did call her to cancel and she thinks it's a smear campaign by SeaWorld.

“I think the bookstore got scared because there are a lot of pro-captivity people here in San Diego and I think SeaWorld was involved in this and I think it's really crummy what they have done,” said Ellen Ericksen, independent animal rights activist.

Hargrove, who transferred out of Shamu Stadium for a safety violation resigned in 2012. He has played a key role in the documentary film “Blackfish” which is critical of SeaWorld's treatment of animals.

“They are scrambling around to save their image,” said Ericksen.

SeaWorld sent CBS News 8 the video of Hargrove who says racial epithets at least 7 times in the five minute recorded conversation. The video now posted on YouTube.

The company says Hargrove lies about its practices and treatment of orcas.

"We are offended by John's behavior and language. The video is particularly reprehensible since John Hargrove is wearing a SeaWorld shirt. SeaWorld would have terminated Hargrove's employment immediately had we known he engaged in this kind of behavior,” said Fred Jacobs, V.P. of Communications at SeaWorld Orlando.

Ericksen says she hasn't watched the video and doesn't condone Hargrove's racial slurs but believes this is a stunt, “What he [Hargrove] has done and said in the past doesn't change what is going on right behind me at SeaWorld right this second, animals are being used and abused."

Hargrove has not returned CBS News 8's request for comment.

Eriksen hopes to have an impromptu book signing at another location in San Diego on Wednesday.

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