On March 28, 2017, Fox’s Tichaona Brown and Kelly Wright, who worked under Brown’s supervision, filed a lawsuit accusing the network comptroller Judith Slater, accusing her of racial discrimination. Shortly after, on April 4, Monica Douglas joined the plaintiffs. Slater was terminated for her alleged actions.
Now, in the response to the plaintiffs’ second amended complaint, submitted on behalf of Slater, her attorneys state, “Taking a callous, irreverent approach to the actual facts, the Plaintiffs lodged frivolous racial discrimination allegations against Ms. Slater in order to generate publicity and widely disseminate their false and misleading accusations that Ms. Slater subjected them to a racially hostile work environment.”
Catherine M. Foti of Morvillo Abramowitz Grand Iason & Anello P.C., the law firm representing the defendant, further alleged the plaintiffs, in a twisted game of sorts to evoke as much media attention as possible “used Wright as a tool to publicize their false allegations against Slater.” Kelly Wright, an African American anchor for the network, came forward, saying he “has been effectively sidelined and asked to perform the role of a ‘Jim Crow’ — the racist caricature of a Black entertainer” by his superiors. Yet, Foti countered, “The incendiary language by Attorney Wigdor raising the shameful period of Jim Crow and plantations is outrageous and draws a comparison that demeans the atrocities committed during those times. These frivolous charges are solely aimed at generating headlines, inflaming racial tensions and poisoning potential jury pools and judges.”
What’s more, Foti says Wright never worked in Fox News’s accounting department and had never worked with or for Slater, so there was no direct interaction between the two that would allow time for inappropriate comments to be made, and Wright was not allowed to join the lawsuit according to his employment contracts with the network, anyway. He had no business joining “other than to serve as a stalking horse for the Plaintiffs.”
In fact, on April 27, 2017, “Wright and Wigdor continued the Plaintiffs’ publicity campaign on the TV show CBS This Morning. Wright acknowledged that he had allowed Wigdor to draft the racial discrimination claim in ‘very explosive language’ which Wright would not have used himself. Specifically, Wright allowed Wigdor to allege that Fox News made him ‘perform the role of a Jim Crow,’ a claim with which he did not agree. When a CBS This Morning host asked Wright about that specific allegation, Wright tried to distance himself from it. Wright answered:
‘It’s very explosive language and it actually comes from my attorney. My language would have been more like: I wanted to meet the demands that they had on me. Show up to work and perform my work one thousand percent, which is what I’ve done. And work at any task that they’d have given me, which is what I’ve tried to do.’”
Slater and her attorneys draw attention to the way in which the plaintiffs’ allegations were written, explaining that the language was purposely written in an attention-grabbing manner in order to capture as much attention as possible. Foti said, “the real version of the facts was different than the narrative that Wright and the other Plaintiffs were selling to the media,” and the narrative they portrayed was merely designed to squeeze out every penny they could from Slater, Fox News and 21 Century.
The defendant’s response further explains that plaintiffs Monica Douglas and Tichaona Brown were actually friends with Slater prior to joining the lawsuit, and “in a Judas-like betrayal, Douglas and Brown have profoundly distorted their relationships with Ms. Slater to generate damaging publicity, and to obtain their own thirty pieces of silver.” The plaintiffs saw dollar signs and decided to band together for a large payout.
“Indeed, work emails and personal text messages confirm that the two Plaintiffs who had the most significant relationships with Ms. Slater, Brown and Douglas, maintained friendly, caring, and mutually supportive relationships with Ms. Slater,” according to the response. Examples of these friendships include:
- “Regularly joking with Ms. Slater”
- “Sharing both amusing anecdotes and serious stories about their childhoods, romantic relationships, and families.”
Further, “Douglas and Ms. Slater’s friendship was even more widely recognized at Fox News.” Examples of this friendship include:
- Meeting in each other’s offices to share “intimate details of their lives over coffee”
- A text from Douglas saying, “I am sooooo happy for you. I can hardly hold myself. LOVE YOU BOSS LADY!!!!” upon Ms. Slater’s promotion to Senior Vice President.
Contrary to the allegations, Slater “hired and fostered a racially diverse staff—belying the Plaintiffs’ absurd allegation that she ‘constantly express[ed] an unwillingness to even be near’ the very people she hired,” details the document. She actively promoted diversity at the network, rather than discouraged it, and the claims presented are no more than a “farce.”
There are two sides to every story, and the high profile case is ongoing. Only time will tell if Slater will be successful in her attempts to overturn the allegations against her.