UPDATE, 5:20 PM: Hit with two racial discrimination suits today, in New York State court and in federal court, Fox News Channel is now swinging back.
“Fox News and Dianne Brandi vehemently deny the race discrimination claims in both lawsuits,” a FNC spokesperson tells Deadline of the accused cable newser and its EVP of Business and Legal Affairs named in the class action and the other filing from current and past employees “They are copycat complaints of the original one filed last month. We will vigorously defend these cases.”
PREVIOUSLY, 4:46 PM: Just three weeks after a trio of African-American employees of Fox News Channel filed an amended complaint of racial discrimination against the much tainted cable newer, eight more individuals have joined them in a potential class action – including current America’s News Headquarters anchor Kelly Wright.
“The only consistency at Fox is the abhorrent, intolerable, unlawful and hostile racial discrimination that was inflicted on minority employees that appears more akin to Plantation-style management than a modern-day work environment,” says the second amended class action complaint filed today (read it here). The plaintiffs include on-air host Wright, Mark Legrier, Mariela Lindsay, Vielka Rojas, Griselda Benson, Mauretta Thomas, Senami Tolode, and Musfiq Rahman. Having filed another amended action of their own on April 4 in New York Supreme Court, Tichaona Brown, Tabrese Wright and Monica Douglas are also a part of this jury trial seeking move.
“This class action seeks to expose Fox for this cover-up, create institutional change at Fox once and for all, and compensate the victims of race discrimination for the harm they were forced to endure and continue to endure,” Tuesday’s filing in NY Supreme Court Bronx County adds. Another lawsuit from lawyer Douglas Wigdor, who is representing the plaintiffs in the state class action, was also filed in federal court on the same matter on behalf of accounting department employee Adasa Blanco (read it here).
Still reeling from the firing of Bill O’Reilly last week for a series of sexual harassment allegations, some of which apparently had a racial element to them, and multi-million dollar settlements, FNC did not respond to request for comment Tuesday.
In fact, O’Reilly figures prominently in today’s class action filing – certainly his treatment of Wright, who the suit says was asked to “perform the role of a ‘Jim Crow’ – the racist caricature of a Black entertainer.”
“O’Reilly refused to permit Mr. Wright to come on his show to discuss how America could focus on achieving racial conciliation in the midst of growing racial hostility, shockingly, he told Mr. Wright that he ‘should call up’ Ailes and current co-President William Shine and ‘offer to sing the National Anthem at the Fox News Town Halls,’” the complaint alleges of the former The O’Reilly Factor host with reference to fired last summer former FNC boss Roger Ailes. “Rather than viewing Mr. Wright as the two-time Emmy Award recipient he is, O’Reilly saw Mr. Wright as an entertainer and utility player.”
The class action complaint goes on to say that “on another occasion, Mr. Wright requested to appear on The O’Reilly Factor to discuss the racial divide in Ferguson, Missouri, and suggested showing the viewers Beyond the Dream, which is a series of positive stories about the African-American community and its contributions to the world.” It seems that request didn’t go over well. “O’Reilly refused to run the Beyond the Dream piece because it showed Blacks in ‘too positive’ a light,” the 82-page filing adds. “O’Reilly incredulously declared on his show: ‘I know Black America better than anyone.’
While Fox News isn’t talking, an attorney for now fired longtime FNC comptroller Judy Slater did have something to say for her client, who is named as a defendant in today’s filing, as she has been in past actions on this matter.
“These are meritless and frivolous lawsuits and all claims of racial discrimination against Ms. Slater are completely false,” said Catherine M. Foti of Morvillo, Abramowitz, Grand, Iason & Anello P.C. “We have yet to see the alleged additions to the original lawsuit. Given how outrageous and offensive these suits are, it’s incomprehensible to imagine how anyone has joined or would join these legal actions.”
The plaintiffs’ main attorney isn’t just letting the paperwork speak for his clients.
“When it comes to racial discrimination, 21st Century Fox has been operating as if it should be called 18th Century Fox,” says Doug Wigdor in a statement Tuesday. “We sincerely hope the filing of this race class action wakes 21st Century Fox from its slumbers and inspires the Company to take a conciliatory and appropriate approach to remedy its wrongs. If 21st Century Fox choses 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.”
With Fox News Network, 21st Century Fox, Inc, Judith Slater and FNC EVP Business and Legal Affairs Dianne Brandi as defendants, the plaintiffs are represented by Wigdor, Jeanne Christensen and Michael Willemin of NYC firm Wigdor LLP.