By Bob Van Voris and Erik Larson, Bloomberg News
Eleven current and former Fox News employees filed a class-action race-bias lawsuit accusing the company of turning a blind eye for years to systemic abuse of workers with darker skin in an attempt to cover for the alleged behavior of Bill O’Reilly and others.
The company’s general counsel and head of human resources both allegedly ignored complaints for years about the “abhorrent and blatant” discrimination by a well-connected employee, because she “knew too much” about O’Reilly, as well as former Chief Executive Officer Roger Ailes and ex-Chief Financial Officer Mark Kranz, according to complaint filed Tuesday in state court in the Bronx borough of New York.
“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,” according to the complaint, which adds additional claims to an pending class- action lawsuit.
The suit steps up the pressure on Fox News, which is battling a surge of race- and sex-harassment claims. Allegations by ex-anchor Gretchen Carlson, former host Andrea Tantaros and others have led to the ouster of Ailes and O’Reilly, the network’s top-rated host. U.S. prosecutors are investigating secret settlement payments the company made to female on-air hosts who complained of sexual harassment.
A representative of Fox News didn’t immediately return a call and email seeking comment on the new claims.
Among those suing is Kelly Wright, a U.S. Army veteran who has worked for Fox News in various anchoring and reporting roles since 2003, according to the complaint. He claims he was sidelined as a result of his race, despite “outstanding performance.”
The lawyer suing Fox News, Douglas Wigdor, also filed a race-bias lawsuit in federal court on behalf of another employee.
In one complaint, Musfiq Rahman, who is described as a dark-skinned Bangladeshi who worked in Fox News’s payroll department, claims his superior mocked his accent and berated him about his pronunciation of certain words. Rahman claims non- white employees in his department had their security clearances reduced after he accidentally walked into Ailes’s office.
The federal case is Blanco v. Twenty-First Century Fox Inc., 17-cv-03017, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
--With assistance from Anousha Sakoui.
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