Thirteen current and former employees of Fox News are filing a class-action lawsuit in the New York Supreme Court, alleging that they experienced “abhorrent, intolerable, unlawful and hostile racial discrimination,” while senior Fox News officials ignored their requests to take action.
“When it comes to racial discrimination, 21st Century Fox has been operating as if it should be called 18th Century Fox,” said Douglas Wigdor and Jeanne Christensen, representatives of the plaintiffs, in a statement cited by BuzzFeed News.
Fox News reporter Kelly Wright, an employee of the network since 2003 and the latest plaintiff to join the suit, claimed in the filing that he was marginalized by the network’s so-called “plantation-style management.”
He alleges that Bill O’Reilly, the former host of “The O’Reilly Factor,” denied him opportunities to appear on his show to examine race relations in America — even rebuffing Wright’s reporting on the escalating racial tensions in Ferguson, Missouri, because it portrayed “blacks in too positive a light,” according to BuzzFeed.
Fox News said in a statement that it “vehemently denies the race discrimination claims in both lawsuits” and said it would “vigorously defend these cases.”
Wright is joined by other African-American ex-employees who allege they encountered “horrific discrimination” from Judith Slater, a Fox News comptroller who was fired in March after an internal investigation. Several plaintiffs alleged that Slater had asked if their children were raised by the same father; told Wright that he had to comb his hair before work because he had “too much afro,” and allegedly asked if they could beatbox for her.
Though Fox representatives said that they took “any complaint of this nature very seriously and took the appropriate action in investigating and firing Ms. Slater within two weeks,” the plaintiffs criticized the statement, saying that they repeatedly complained about Slater’s actions to no avail in years past.
Monica Douglas, a credit and collections manager of Panamanian heritage, claimed she was warned by Slater not to bring her grievances to the human resources department: “I am HR,” Slater was alleged to have said. Douglas’ accusations go further, alleging that Slater had kicked her buttocks and said that she “would not even let her dog eat the food Panamanians eat,” BuzzFeed reported.
The latest accusations are unfolding at a time when Fox News is trying to recalibrate from Bill O’Reilly’s firing last week over a growing sexual harassment scandal.
“If 21st Century Fox chooses to defend the indefensible–systemic race discrimination—we will utilize our collective efforts and resources to hold those responsible for these egregious discriminatory acts before a Bronx jury,” attorneys Wigdor and Christensen said.
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