April 3, 2017 / 5:21 PM / 6 months ago

Fox News, Ailes face another sexual harassment lawsuit

Roger Ailes, chairman and CEO of Fox News and Fox Television Stations, answers questions during a panel discussion at the Television Critics Association summer press tour in Pasadena, California July 24, 2006. REUTERS/Fred Prouser/File Photo

(Reuters) - A Democratic political consultant and Fox News contributor on Monday sued the network and its former chairman, Roger Ailes, accusing them of denying her a permanent hosting job after she rebuffed Ailes’ sexual advances.

Julie Roginsky also said in her lawsuit filed in New York state court that a misogynistic culture at Fox News, a unit of Twenty-First Century Fox Inc (FOXA.O), had not changed since Ailes resigned last year after a separate sexual harassment lawsuit by former anchor Gretchen Carlson.

Susan Estrich, a lawyer for Ailes, said in a statement that Roginsky’s claims were “total hogwash.”

“This is about someone who wants to pile-on in a massive character assassination in order to achieve what she did not accomplish on the merits,” Estrich said.

A Fox News spokeswoman had no comment on the lawsuit by Roginsky, 43, who has appeared on Fox News programs since 2011 and writes a column for the network’s website.

Her action followed other allegations, including at least two separate lawsuits, against Fox News and Ailes by women claiming they were sexually harassed by the 76-year-old founder of the network.

Fox last year agreed to pay $20 million to settle Carlson’s claims that her contract was not renewed because she rebuffed Ailes. A separate sexual harassment lawsuit filed last year by former Fox News anchor Andrea Tantaros was sent to private arbitration.

In the new lawsuit, Roginsky said Ailes in early 2015 told her he was considering her for a full-time slot on highly rated talk show “The Five.” But the job never materialized and she lost her spot as a contributor on the show after she declined his advances, she said.

She also sued Fox News Co-President Bill Shine, asserting that he failed to investigate her claims. Roginsky is seeking unspecified damages under a New York City law that prohibits discrimination, harassment and retaliation.

The New York Times on Saturday reported that Fox and anchor Bill O’Reilly had paid at least $13 million to five women to settle claims that he sexually harassed them. O’Reilly has denied the claims.

Wendy Walsh, a psychologist and radio host who had been a regular guest on “The O‘Reilly Factor” TV show, told the Times that O‘Reilly reneged on an offer to secure her a lucrative job on the network after she declined his invitation to join him in his hotel suite after a dinner in early 2013. She was later told by a producer that her regular segment on O‘Reilly’s show was being put on hold for the summer, she said.

Carmaker Mercedes-Benz, a unit of Daimler (DAIGn.DE), pulled its advertising from “The O‘Reilly Factor” after the newspaper report.

“The allegations are disturbing and, given the importance of women in every aspect of our business, we don’t feel this is a good environment in which to advertise our products right now,” Mercedes-Benz spokeswoman Donna Boland said in an email.

Walsh repeated the accusation at a news conference on Monday at her lawyer’s office in Woodland Hills, California. Walsh said she spoke publicly to show other women they can fight sexual harassment. “I want to be the voice for all women,” she said.

Walsh’s attorney, Lisa Bloom, called on government authorities to investigate the workplace culture at Fox News.

A Fox News spokeswoman declined to comment on the remarks by Walsh and Bloom, and Fox was not immediately available for comment on Mercedes-Benz pulling its ads.

O‘Reilly, in a statement posted on his website on Saturday, said he had been unfairly targeted because of his prominence.

On Monday, Mark Fabiani, a crisis communications expert hired by O‘Reilly, pointed to an email that Walsh sent O‘Reilly’s assistant in September 2013, months after the hotel incident she described in the news conference.

In that email, Walsh thanked O‘Reilly for helping her promote her book and said she would like to resume her segments on his show.

Walsh, in a phone interview on Monday, confirmed she wrote the email, calling it an attempt to revive her job opportunity at Fox.

Reporting by Daniel Wiessner in Albany, New York; Additional reporting by Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles; Editing by David Gregorio and Lisa Shumaker

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