SeaWorld releases video to discredit former orca trainer

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SAN DIEGO -- SeaWorld officials went on the offensive Tuesday against a former orca trainer who is critical of the park's treatment of the marine mammals by releasing an embarrassing video.

The cell phone video shows ex-employee John Hargrove, who appears to be drunk, using racial slurs.

SeaWorld released the clip Tuesday just as Hargrove is in the middle of a book tour for "Beneath the Surface." In the book, Hargrove writes about his time as a trainer and is critical of the park’s treatment of animals.

“It’s a smear campaign,” said animal activist Ellen Ericksen, who had planned to attend at Hargrove's book signing event at Warwick’s in La Jolla before it was canceled.

Employees at the bookstore would not say why the event was scrapped or if it had anything to do with SeaWorld’s release of the clip.

“We believe it is important that you see this video we received just this weekend from an internal whistleblower,” Fred Jacobs of SeaWorld said about the video’s release.

FOX 5 reached out to Hargrove, who also took part in the movie "Blackfish," for comment. He did not respond to the request.

“I remember parts of that night and drinking, and you can clearly tell we definitely had a lot to drink. But that video is taken completely out of context. There’s not a proper beginning or end,” Hargrove told U-T San Diego.

“It’s not surprising but it’s disgusting that SeaWorld would resort to this level of a smear campaign, making personal attacks."


  • Jake

    What’s good for the goose, is good for the gander. This guy is trying to capitalize on the Black Fish propaganda film, but cries foul when his dirt is exposed? Sea World does more animal rescue than the State authorities and has learned from their past mistakes. Hargrove is a disgruntled ex-employee, trying to get revenge on a former employer. His book is garbage.

    • Cindy

      Exactly, you reap what you sow. I wish people would see how dirty and conniving the Blackfish people are. They truly do not care about the animals heir problem is with corporate America. Funny how this trainer helped with the movie only after he was let go from Sea World. He didn’t have a problem with it when he was drawing a paycheck.

  • AMS

    Not so fun when someone takes to personal attacks, is it Johnny? people that live in glass houses should not throw stones….

  • Teresa Wagner

    It’s quite disappointing to hear that Hargrove used such an ugly racist word. However, even a racist can tell the truth. SeaWorld does not. We can dislike Hargrove for racist slurs, but the words and stories about SeaWorld and the whales in his book are true. His racial slur does not excuse SeaWorld’s 50 plus years of kidnapping, slavery and abuse of whales. Nice try SeaWorld, but this is apples and oranges. If one word in Hargrove’s book was false, SeaWorld would be suing him, not digging up and exposing completely irrelevant dirt on him.

    • Cindy

      TO me using racist words goes to INTEGRITY AND CHARACHTER AND HE HAS none. He was happy to work there when he was on payroll. just a bunch of sour grapes from a whiner.

    • Fred

      Teresa, where’s your proof this guy is telling any truth in his book? Only that you believe him so then it must be true? How many people believe anything a politician says is the truth? Demoncrat or repubs? This guy is a Liar. Like someone else has already said, he had no issue with sea world as long as he was collecting a check. People like you, weak minded people who believe everything people say without finding the truth are why this country is going down the tubes….kind of like the moron who sold all of you weak minded folks Hope and Change…’s that working out for you?

  • Jim Light

    It is a shame that a bookstore would cancel a signing based on an obvious smear campaign by SeaWorld. I think the video appalling but it has nothing to do with the message of the book.

    SeaWorld is spending big bucks to discredit, threaten and harass this former trainer who refused to be bought out, bullied or silenced.

    Brancheaeu didn’t follow protocol. Blackfish was all lies. OSHA was in cahoots with the Blackfish team. Everyone opposed to SeaWorld is an evil, radical PETA member. And now we see this treatment of an ex-trainer they could not silence. The pattern is clear. It should be no surprise.

    I do not condone racism in any way shape of form, but I do applaud the conviction of someone who spoke their conscience knowing SeaWorld would pull out the stops to threaten and discredit them.

    This bookstore is inadvertently supporting SeaWorld’s attempt to silence criticism of the obvious cruelty of their business model.

    • Cindy

      Really, why did he only speak his conscious when he was let go. he was more than happy to accept the perks and prestige then went with the job. Only after he was let go does he speak out. What a joke of a man

    • Diane

      The bookstore is not necessarily supporting Sea World by cancelling the book signing They cancelled the signing because this guy was caught on tape in a racist rant. Period. The two things are completely separate. Obviously, the bookstore supports his book since they offered him a signing in the first place. He dug his own grave on this one, and the fact that people are blaming Sea World and/or the bookstore is ridiculous.

  • Eric Mills

    Nothing but a desperate and sleazy attempt at character assassination by SeaWorld to distract from the REAL issue: Orcas neither thrive nor belong in captivity.

    This five-year-old unfortunate and drunken video is completely irrelevant to the matter at hand. The orcas gotta to. If still in doubt after seeing “Blackfish,” or reading Hargrove’s book, see David Kirby’s 2012 book, “Death at SeaWorld.” Captive/performing orcas are true “Crimes Against Nature.”

    • Fred

      Sea world does such good things for sick and hurt animals. All you people who believe the black fish BS are too funny. Weak minded,tree hugging morons. Who will be called if you idiots get places like sea world closed down when a animal or mammal gets sick or hurt? Any of you idiots ever think about that?

      • Deanne Pace

        Well, Fred, I would think one of the many marine mammal rescue groups up and down the California Coast would be called. For example, the Marine Mammal Center, Pacific Marine Mammal Center and their whole network of marine mammal rescue groups – all of which just quietly go about the business of marine mammal rescue without bragging about it every time they do some good. And by the way, I’m pretty sure the rescue groups don’t make their rescued marine mammals perform.

  • Awesome!!!

    Awesome! Dirt bag is getting payback for inciting the public with exaggerated and misleading statements.

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