New York Post Editor Forced to Answer Rupert Murdoch 'Monkey Cartoon' Questions

In an ongoing discrimination lawsuit, a judge says that NYP editor-in-chief Col Allan can't assert "editorial privilege" to shield conversations he had with the News Corp. mogul about a decision to publish a controversial Obama cartoon.
Rupert Murdoch.

Now that we know News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch's "creepy" feelings about Scientology, it's time to hear what he thinks about a New York Post cartoon that depicted President Barack Obama as a chimpanzee being gunned down by white police officers.

News Corp. is currently facing a lawsuit from one of its former editors, Sandra Guzman, who accuses the New York Post and top editor Col Allan of employment discrimination on the basis of race, national origin and gender amid accusations of a litany of lewd acts. The Post has responded to the lawsuit by saying it "has no merit and is based on charges that are groundless," but a judge has decided that Allan must answer questions about the paper's editorial decision-making.

At Allan's deposition, which lasted more then seven hours in February, he invoked "editorial privilege" in response to 12 of those questions.

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Afterwards, the defendant made a motion for protective order that would prohibit Gumzan's lawyers from seeking discovery regarding the decisions on the 2009 "chimpanzee cartoon" as well as about nude pictures relating to former New Jersey Governor James McGreevey's divorce proceedings.

The plaintiff responded by arguing that editorial privilege "has never been recognized by any court of record," and that any claim of "journalistic privilege" wouldn't be applicable to communications between editors of a paper. She is attempting to allege that she was subject to a hostile workplace at the Post through exposure to objectionable material, including a photograph of a nude man.

Judge Ronald Ellis agrees that journalist's privilege doesn't apply, saying that it applies to "newsgathering" and the protection of sources, not to the questions presented to him during his deposition.

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The judge then addresses the case, Rosario v. New York Times, that the defendants rely upon to assert an editorial privilege, saying that the judge in that case wasn't recognizing the concept, but rather was focused on the relevance of the inquiry.

"It drew a sharp distinction between 'business' judgments and 'editorial' judgments," writes the judge in a ruling last week. "The 'editorial' questions were simply not relevant to the business judgments at issue in the employment discrimination case."

As for what questions Allan will now be forced to answer, they include a long line of inquiry into conversations with Murdoch:

  • So tell us in substance what you said to your boss Rupert Murdoch about the monkey cartoon when he called you the day it was published?
  • So it was your understanding that Rupert Murdoch believed that it was a mistake to publish the cartoon?
  • Why [did you disagree with the decision to publish an apology in the Post]?
  • Did you tell Mr. Murdoch that you didn't think it was a mistake for publishing the cartoon?
  • Did you tell Mr. Murdoch that you disagreed with apologizing for this publication?
  • What happened the following day [when Mr. Allan spoke to Mr. Murdoch about the cartoon]?
  • What did you say to [Mr. Murdoch] about the cartoon on that second call?

As part of the announced proposed News Corp. split, Murdoch would remain chairman of the publishing company, but a new CEO would be picked.


Twitter: @eriqgardner