A federal employment discrimination claim against CNN could turn on whether it was legal for the network to designate specific on-air positions for minorities as it sought to increase the diversity of its news staff.

CNN’s attorney has argued that, regardless of its diversity objectives, it hires and fires primarily on the basis of talent. The network says it didn’t renew the contract of roving anchor Marina Kolbe in 2003 because she didn’t measure up to its standards for on-air talent, not because she was white.

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