BLACK VOICES
04/25/2017 11:14 pm ET

Fox News Anchor Among Group Alleging Racial Discrimination In Class-Action Suit

The suit says host Kelly Wright was asked to "perform the role of a 'Jim Crow.'"

A group of 11 current and former Fox News employees filed a class-action lawsuit against the television network on Tuesday, claiming years of “abhorrent, intolerable” racial discrimination.

The suit, filed in New York State Supreme Court in the Bronx, amends an earlier complaint filed in March by two women who, at the time, cited “top-down racial harassment,” The New York Times notes. The suit now includes Kelly Wright, who is co-anchor of “America’s News Headquarters” on Fox News, and eight others. It specifically targets the company’s lawyer, Dianne Brandi, and then-comptroller Judith Slater, and cites the behavior of former network superstar Bill O’Reilly.

“The only consistency at Fox is the abhorrent, intolerable, unlawful and hostile racial discrimination ... more akin to plantation-style management than a modern-day work environment,” the suit reads.

The complaint says O’Reilly refused to allow Wright to discuss growing racial tension in the U.S. on “The O’Reilly Factor,” instead saying the host should call up network executives and “offer to sing the national anthem at the Fox News Town Halls.”

“Despite his outstanding performance, and because he is black, Mr. Wright has been effectively sidelined and asked to perform the role of a ‘Jim Crow’ ― the racist caricature of a black entertainer,” the suit continues. “Rather than viewing Mr. Wright as the two time Emmy Award recipient that he is, O’Reilly saw Mr. Wright as an entertainer and utility player.”

In a statement, a Fox News spokesperson rejected the allegations in the complaint, saying the network would “vigorously defend these cases.”

“Fox News and Dianne Brandi vehemently deny the race discrimination claims in both lawsuits. They are copycat complaints of the original one filed last month,” the spokesperson said in an email.

The amended complaint also says that Slater, Fox News’ comptroller, mocked and berated employees over their pronunciation of certain words, such as “mother,” “father” and “month.” When employees tried to address the behavior with company lawyers, the suit says, they were told “nothing could be done because Slater knew too much about senior executives.”

Lawyers for Slater told the Times that the lawsuit was “meritless and frivolous” and that claims against her were “completely false.”

Fox News has faced a litany of legal action over the past year, including a lawsuit by former host Gretchen Carlson that led to the ouster of Chairman Roger Ailes. A separate complaint was filed against the former executive this month by a current Fox contributor, Julie Roginsky, who accused Ailes of harassing her and the network of retaliating against her for rebuffing him.

Similar complaints led to the shocking downfall of O’Reilly earlier this month, prompting the network to make stark changes to its lineup. Rupert Murdoch, executive co-chairman of parent company 21st Century Fox, sent a memo to Fox News employees this week addressing the turmoil:

“I know the last few weeks have been tough for everyone here, but our passion for news and commitment to our viewers continue to lead us through. Congratulations and thank you for all your hard work.”

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