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Fox Lawyers Deny Harassing Culture Filtered to Local Stations

Variety logo Variety 5/16/2017 Gene Maddaus
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The harassment scandals at Fox News have the potential to create legal problems up and down the corporate ladder, as attorneys attempt to show a culture of indifference to the complaints of female employees.

Attorneys for 21st Century Fox are attempting to limit the damage, arguing in a legal brief filed today that the issues at Fox News cannot be used to sue Fox’s owned-and-operated local stations.

Lidia Curanaj, a reporter at Fox5 in New York, filed suit in December, alleging that she was denied an anchor position because she was “not attractive enough” and was discriminated against due to her Albanian heritage. Curanaj also alleged that Fox News’ then chief, Roger Ailes, turned her down for a job at the network after hearing she would not submit to his sexual demands.

Curanaj alleged that her superiors were taking their cues from Ailes. The suit alleges that the Fox5 news director, Byron Harmon, penned a soft-core novel titled “All the Women I’ve Loved,” about the exploits of a Fox5 executive producer. The suit alleges that the station overlooked Harmon’s behavior because it was consistent with the misogynistic culture of the parent company.

But in a motion for dismissal filed Monday, 21st Century Fox attorneys argue that Curanaj is an employee of Fox Television Stations, which has operations entirely distinct from those of the parent company. The motion seeks to strike all references to scandals involving Ailes and host Bill O’Reilly from the amended complaint.

The attorneys also state that 21st Century Fox employs women in top executive roles, demonstrating that it does not have a discriminatory corporate culture.

“Furthermore, plaintiff’s allegations about the parent company’s ‘misogynistic culture’ have no basis in reality,” the attorneys write. “Women occupy the highest ranks at other 21st Century subsidiaries: Dana Walden is the chairman and CEO of Fox Television Group and Stacey Snider is the chairman and CEO of 20th Century Fox Film.”

The company also accuses Curanaj of rehashing complaints against Ailes and O’Reilly in order to exploit a “front-page media frenzy” surrounding Fox News.

Curanaj’s attorneys have alleged that Fox sought to communicate that Fox News and its local affiliates were facets of a single brand — the “Fox worldwide platform.”

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