A new sexual harassment lawsuit against Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News Channel has increased the pressure on the cable network with allegations that Bill Shine, its co-president, failed to protect a female contributor from retaliation by Roger Ailes after she spurned his unwanted advances.
Julie Roginsky, a Fox News contributor and political consultant, alleged in a complaint filed in New York State supreme court that she was denied a prominent presenting position on a Fox News show after rejecting Mr Ailes.
Ms Roginsky is being represented by Nancy Erika Smith, the attorney who also represented Gretchen Carlson in her successful legal action against Fox News. Ms Carlson’s lawsuit, which was filed last summer, led to the firing of Mr Ailes, the hard-charging former Richard Nixon aide who helped launch Fox News 20 years ago and turned it into the dominant force in US cable news.
Ms Roginsky alleges that she informed Mr Shine, Dianne Brandi, the channel’s legal counsel, and Suzanne Scott, its executive vice-president, of the harassment she suffered. She claims in the lawsuit that her complaint was never investigated or passed on to Paul Weiss, the law firm which was hired by 21st Century Fox, Fox News’ parent company, last summer to investigate allegations against Mr Ailes.
She also alleges in the complaint that Mr Shine “retaliated” against her after she “refused to malign Gretchen Carlson and join ‘Team Roger’ when [Ms] Carlson sued [Mr] Ailes for sexual harassment”.
The latest lawsuit comes after a weekend of new revelations about the workplace culture at Fox News and the behaviour of Bill O’Reilly, its biggest star. The New York Times reported that Fox News and Mr O’Reilly had paid settlements worth a total of $13m to women who complained of harassment by him.
Federal investigators have launched a probe into how pay-offs and financial settlements were concealed by Fox News. The US Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York is leading the investigation and has subpoenaed multiple witnesses, offering immunity to at least two, according to people briefed on the investigation.
One of those to have been offered immunity is Mark Kranz, Fox News’ former chief financial officer. He parted company with the network last year in the aftermath of Mr Ailes’ departure.
The latest lawsuit also comes amid new tensions at Fox News between its news and opinion sides.
Andrew Napolitano, a Fox News legal pundit, was suspended from the airwaves after making a baseless claim about GCHQ wiretapping President Donald Trump: Mr Napolitano was reinstated last week, to the anger of some Fox News journalists, according to people inside the company.
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