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A protest against Bill O'Reilly earlier this month at Fox News headquarters in New York City. (Photo: Color of Change/Twitter)

'Old Boys Club' Fox News Slapped With Racial Discrimination Lawsuit

Anchor Kelly Wright claims he "has been effectively sidelined and asked to perform the role of a 'Jim Crow'—the racist caricature of a Black entertainer."

Deirdre Fulton

Just days after lead network personality Bill O'Reilly was canned from the network in the wake of sexual harassment allegations, Fox News was slapped with a class-action racial discrimination lawsuit.

The suit, filed by 11 current and former employees in New York State Supreme Court in the Bronx on Tuesday, accuses Fox of "abhorrent, intolerable, unlawful, and hostile racial discrimination." The filing expands "a complaint filed at the end of March by Tichaona Brown and Tabrese Wright, two black women who worked in the Fox News payroll department," according to the New York Times.

Kelly Wright, a black reporter and anchor who has been with Fox News since 2003, joined the class-action suit as a plaintiff, claiming that he "has been effectively sidelined and asked to perform the role of a 'Jim Crow'—the racist caricature of a Black entertainer."

At a press conference Wednesday, Wright said he was speaking out because network leadership had "lost their way" and "failed to be fair and balanced to all of our employees regardless of race, gender, faith, creed, or color." Fox News leaders, he said, "seemed to simply overlook the value of diversity and inclusion in the workplace."

In addition, the Washington Post reports, "a 12th former employee filed a separate discrimination lawsuit in federal court in the Southern District of New York; and a 13th person turned to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission with a discrimination charge."

The Post continues:

Each complaint, at least in part, addresses the behavior of Judith Slater, the company's longtime comptroller whom Fox News fired in late February. Slater, the complainants allege, subjected black and other nonwhite employees in the payroll department to "top-down racial harassment."

According to the complaints, Slater mocked the way these employees pronounced words like "month" and "ask," insinuated that black men were "women beaters" and expressed insulting racial stereotypes about Mexicans, Chinese men, and people of Indian descent.

The employees claim that top executives had known for years of Slater's alleged behavior, but told black employees that "nothing could be done because Slater knew too much about senior executives," including former Fox chairman Roger Ailes, former chief financial officer Mark Kranz and former "O'Reilly Factor" host Bill O'Reilly.

"The brave employees who filed this lawsuit have shown that at Fox News, being Black—or a person of color, or a woman—means having a target on your back," said Rashad Robinson, executive director at Color of Change, which has led the charge against O'Reilly and the network. Following O'Reilly's firing, Color of Change and other organizations vowed to continue holding the network accountable for its "culture of sexual and racial harassment." 

"Anyone who's not part of the old boys' club is subject to a constant, institutionalized culture of abuse," Robinson said Wednesday. "This discrimination will not stop until there is widespread systemic accountability, and we will not back down until these changes are achieved."

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