2:43pm PT by Eriq Gardner
Fox Reporter Claims Harassment by Roger Ailes in Discrimination Lawsuit
In a new lawsuit, reporter Lidia Curanaj discusses "misogynistic culture" at 21st Century Fox and recounts sexual harassment claims made in the past year by Gretchen Carlson and others against former Fox News boss Roger Ailes. Then, Curanaj recounts her own experience from 2011 after she allegedly met Ailes at a dinner and applied for a position.
According to the complaint filed in New York federal court, Curanaj (real name: Lidija Ujkic) had a group interview with multiple Fox News employees before being invited by Ailes for a private interview. There, Ailes allegedly launched a tirade that President Barack Obama was a Muslim "working with the terrorists" before shifting the discussion to the cable news network's "recipe for success."
"Specifically, Ailes told Ms. Curanaj that he always made sure that the women on FNC were shown 'from the feet up,' meaning that their legs would be visible to the television audience," states the lawsuit. "Ailes stated that, for this reason, it is 'important [for female talent] to look good from head to toe.'"
Ailes allegedly asked Curanaj to stand up and turn around so that he could see her from behind. She complied, and Ailes commented, "I like what I see," according to the complaint.
But Curanaj claims she didn't get the job after Ailes reached out to New York State Senator Gregory Ball — who she says she dated — to inquire whether she "put out."
According to the lawsuit, "Based on the temporal proximity between her private interview with Ailes, the call from Ailes to Senator Ball and Ailes’ subsequent decision to not hire her, it was clear to Ms. Curanaj that she was 'not ready' for FNC because of Ailes' discovery that she would be unwilling to submit to him, sexually."
Ailes is not a defendant, and the the complaint largely takes aim at alleged discrimination Curanaj claims to have suffered as a freelance reporter for New York affiliate Fox 5 after being hired in November 2011. There, she worked under Byron Harmon, the station's news director.
Harmon allegedly told Curanaj, 38, that she was "not attractive enough" to be an anchor, and on another occasion, that she looked "sick." He also allegedly repeatedly referred to her as "Ms. Albania," in reference to her national roots. (Her family is actually from Montenegro.) The lawsuit says that since Curanaj joined the station, eight individuals younger than her were hired for full-time positions.
The plaintiff says she informed an assistant news director that she had become pregnant this past July and was denied a request for a schedule upon return from maternity leave. She later says her hours were cut after she put the station on notice of claims of unlawful discrimination.
Represented by attorneys at Wigdor LLP, she's now asserting multiple claims of discrimination and retaliation and demanding an unspecified amount of monetary damages. Here's the complaint. Fox hasn't yet responded to an opportunity to comment.