Already subject to multiple lawsuits charging the network with sexual harassment and racial discrimination, Fox News now faces another legal action from reporter Diana Falzone, and prime time host Sean Hannity implies that he’ll file a libel suit against former guest Debbie Schlussel.
Previous tort cases have brought down network CEO Roger Ailes last year and Hannity’s colleague Bill O’Reilly in April. Eleven minority employees filed suit last week, citing “intolerable” racial bias, and contributor Julie Roginsky filed yet another sexual harassment suit.
On the criminal side, grand juries are also reportedly looking into claims that Fox News misled shareholders about payouts on harassment claims and engaged in mail and wire fraud.
Falzone claims that after she wrote an article about her struggles with endometriosis, a gynecological condition that causes infertility, Fox News reduced her responsibilities and tried to push her out the door.
The site’s managing director, Refet Kaplan, told Falzone soon after the article came out that she couldn’t appear in videos for the website or as a guest on the Fox News and Fox News Business cable channels, the suit alleges. Kaplan told Falzone that the mandate came from “the Second Floor,” a reference to where Fox News co-president Bill Shine and other executives worked, according to the complaint.
“The issues raised in Diana Falzone’s lawsuit are a concern for all women,” her attorney, Nancy Erika Smith, said in a statement. “Once Diana disclosed her condition, Fox executives decided she no longer conformed to their on-air image of women as ‘physically perfect.’”
“The issues raised in Diana Falzone’s lawsuit are a concern for all women,” Falzone’s attorney Nancy Erika Smith, who also represented Gretchen Carlson against the network, tells Variety. “Fox News never banned her male counterparts who have discussed their personal health issues on air. Indeed, those men saw their careers advance.”
Indeed, conservative masculinity is easily offended by issues of female biology, from public breastfeeding to birth control to abortion. Furthermore, Bill Shine is reportedly under the gun already for his role in past sexual harassment claims against the network and Ailes.
Named as a co-defendant in Roginsky’s lawsuit, Shine should have been fired months ago, but because he knows where all the proverbial bodies are buried, the Murdoch family is worried about what he might tell those grand juries.
Further complicating matters, host Sean Hannity says he is mulling a libel suit against Debbie Schlussel, who all but accused him of sexual harassment in April only to walk the charge back days later.
“I never thought I was sexually harassed by Sean Hannity, I thought he was weird and creepy, not someone I liked,” Schlussel told the website LawNewz. “Sexual harassment has a special meaning under the law, and I would never accuse him of that.”
In a tweetstorm yesterday, Hannity indicated that he has followed up on previous threats to sue Schlussel, whom he denounces as a “serial harasser.”
A lot of time with an army of attorneys. Topics include; libel, slander, defamation, tortious interference. Stay tuned.
— Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) April 30, 2017
After his Twitter account “liked” a tweet featuring a partially-nude woman, Hannity blamed an unknown hacker and a conspiracy to bring him down, vowing revenge.
Oh FYI, Whoever you are just remember, IP addresses are traceable. Get Ready.
— Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) May 1, 2017
There is Zero chance they can stop me with lies, attacks, slander defamation, and NOW sabotage. I have a massive army, ALL OVER THIS. SOON!! https://t.co/MWBZEQZWR2
— Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) May 1, 2017
If Rupert Murdoch and his sons had hoped to dampen the fires of controversy and smoothly reposition the network, they were sorely mistaken. It’s not even clear that the days of crisis at Fox News have reached a middle yet.
UPDATE: Bill Shine has reportedly gotten the boot.
BREAKING: Two sources inside Fox News say Bill Shine is out as of this morning
— Gabriel Sherman (@gabrielsherman) May 1, 2017
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