Fox News deleted computer data, spied on text messages of employees who claimed sexual harassment, city investigation charged

Fox News staffers who claimed sexual harassment then faced a harassment campaign from their own employer, a previously undisclosed investigation by the city concluded.

Jul 21, 2020: Current and former Fox News hosts Hannity, Carlson and Henry named in sexual harassment lawsuit

The conservative network spied on the text messages and deleted computer data of employees who complained about harassing behavior by colleagues and supervisors, according to a complaint by the city Commission on Human Rights.

The commission leveled the allegations against Fox News in December 2018. The probe was not publicly revealed until June when Fox News agreed to a $1 million settlement — but the complaint was not made public at the time.

The complaint, filed in an ongoing lawsuit, adds further detail about Fox News’ toxic workplace culture. The media company has been plagued by sexual harassment allegations for years. Most notoriously, the network’s founder Roger Ailes left the network in 2016 after facing a barrage of harassment accusations. Fox News’ biggest star, Bill O’Reilly, left the following year after facing accusations of harassment and racism.

More recently, former Fox News host Ed Henry was accused in a civil lawsuit of raping a junior staffer — an allegation he denies.

“Fox News Media patently denies that there ever has been a practice of erasing or intentionally failing to protect valuable computer data,” said a spokeswoman. “The issues outlined in the complaint concern legacy matters predating our current executive leadership team. Furthermore, the network does not retaliate against any current or former employees and has taken extensive preventative measures to ensure a zero tolerance policy for all forms of discrimination and harassment.”

The Human Rights complaint, which is heavily redacted, alleges that the conservative network made a habit of “erasing valuable computer data of those who complain, or failing to responsibly protect such data.” The tactic was one method of retaliation against staff who claimed harassment, the complaint alleges.

“If Fox personnel destroyed evidence, then the DA should have been notified and somebody should have been indicted,” said lawyer Ty Clevenger, who represents a man accusing former Fox News contributor Andrew Napolitano of sexually harassing him in an elevator in 2019.

Clevenger obtained the complaint through a Freedom of Information Law request.

Other methods of retaliation against employees who refused sex with Fox News higherups included “manipulating computer systems of those who complain” and surveilling employees’ text messages, the commission charged.

The company also blacklisted and publicly discredited employees who claimed harassment, saying that their allegations were “politically motivated or asserted for personal gain,” according to the complaint. The network allegedly went out of its way to prevent harassment accusers from getting work at other outlets.

The $1 million the company shelled out to resolve the commission’s investigation was the highest ever under the city’s human rights law. As part of the settlement with the city, Fox News agreed to implement new sexual harassment training. The network says it has been in full compliance with the settlement.

The complaint details six allegations of retaliation by the company, though names and dates are redacted.

In one case, a Fox employee allegedly endured “crude comments” from her superior in front of colleagues. While another colleague made a recording of the comments and reported it to management, the superior who made the crude comments “faced no repercussions,” the commission charged.

Instead, Fox reassigned the woman who complained, according to the complaint

Another woman had her pay cut and lost valuable appearances on prime-time shows after she refused sexual advances from a Fox News executive, the complaint says.

In retaliation, the company coordinated a hit piece slamming her, according to the complaint.

Clevenger filed the complaint as evidence in a lawsuit brought by former producer John Fawcett against the network. In addition to the alleged harassment by Napolitano in an elevator, Fawcett says Fox Business host Larry Kudlow made racist and sexist remarks during staff meetings — going so far as to block the appearance of a Black congressman on his show.

Kudlow, Napolitano and Fox News deny Fawcett’s allegations.

Published by amongthefray

News with a historical perspective. Fighting against misinformation, hate, and revisionist history.

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