Christian Cooper, birdwatcher targeted by ‘Central Park Karen’, wins Emmy

Christian Cooper, the Black birdwatcher who made headlines in 2020 over a confrontation with a white woman in Central Park, has won his first Emmy.

Cooper, 61, launched the National Geographic show Extraordinary Birder with Christian Cooper in 2023 following his unexpected rise to viral fame due to the incident.

The presenter won the award for “Outstanding Daytime Personality - Non-Daily” at the Daytime Emmys.

In his acceptance speech Cooper, who is gay, said: “This is an unexpected journey from being a closeted queer kid in the 1970s and a Black kid in the almost totally then-all-white field of birding, which makes this all the more thrilling.”

He added that the “world has changed, happily” and that “no matter what anybody says or does we are not going back. We will only move forward together.”

When Extraordinary Birder with Christian Cooper was first announced, National Geographic said the show would take viewers “into the wild, wonderful and unpredictable world of birds”.

Christian Cooper poses with his Emmy in Los Angeles in June 2024 (Getty Images)
Christian Cooper poses with his Emmy in Los Angeles in June 2024 (Getty Images)

“Whether braving stormy seas in Alaska for puffins, trekking into rainforests in Puerto Rico for parrots, or scaling a bridge in Manhattan for a peregrine falcon,” the statement continued. “He does whatever it takes to learn about these extraordinary feathered creatures and show us the remarkable world in the sky above”.

Cooper first came to international prominence in May 2020, when he asked a white woman to leash her dog in a protected area of New York’s biggest park, where he was bird watching and where dog-leashing is required.

Amy Cooper (no relation) was dubbed “Central Park Karen” after she was filmed pleading with a 911 operator to “send the cops” because, she falsely claimed, an African American man was threatening her life. The video was viewed more than 45 million times on social media, and she was later charged with filing a false police report before the charges were dropped the following year.

“I don’t think there’s an African American person in America who hasn’t experienced something like this at some point,” Christian Cooper told The Washington Post at the time.

The confrontation occurred on the same day George Floyd, another Black man, was killed by police in Minneapolis. The killing ignited demonstrations against police brutality across the US.

Amy Cooper has since completed racial bias training, which her therapist reportedly told a court last year was “a moving experience” for the woman, who was fired by her employer, an investment firm. She later accused her former employer in court of racial discrimination.