Advertisement
Company Town

Former Fox News executive files $48-million lawsuit over sexual assault scandal

Fox has been plagued by sexual harassment charges over the last year.

A former Fox News executive fired after he was accused of sexually assaulting a female on-air commentator is suing parent company 21st Century Fox for going public with the matter.

Francisco Cortes, who ran Fox News Latino, was fired in February after Tamara Holder, a Fox News on-air contributor, complained to the company that he attempted to force her to have oral sex with him in his office in February 2015. Holder, whose contract as a contributor was not renewed at the end of 2016, was given a $2.5-million settlement by 21st Century Fox.

The Cortes lawsuit filed Tuesday in New York State Supreme Court said that comments Fox and Holder gave to the New York Times in a March 8 story about the settlement violated an agreement with his accuser. The agreement stipulated Holder would not “publish or cause to be published any statements” that portrayed him “in an unreasonable light.”

The lawsuit, which asks for damages of $48 million, says the remarks on the case to the New York Times were “carefully negotiated” by Holder and Fox and that the publication of them destroyed Cortes’ reputation in the TV business.

Advertisement

The statement Fox News gave to the Times confirmed that Holder received a settlement but did not mention Cortes, although his name was reported in the story, which was picked up in other outlets, including the Los Angeles Times. Holder posed for a photographer in the New York Times and gave quotes about the alleged sexual assault, but made no direct mention of Cortes.

The suit said Cortes and his reputation were sacrificed by 21st Century Fox to demonstrate that it was taking action against the sexual harassment allegations that engulfed the company at the time.

In the suit, Cortes denies the claims made by Holder, but said he agreed to the settlement to put the matter behind him.

A Fox News representative said in a statement that the allegations in the lawsuit “are frivolous and without merit.”

Advertisement

Holder’s claims came amid a spate of sexual harassment allegations being investigated by 21st Century Fox’s law firm following the lawsuit filed by former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson against the network’s late chief executive, Roger Ailes.

stephen.battaglio@latimes.com

Twitter: @SteveBattaglio


UPDATES:

4:30 p.m.: This article was updated with a statement from Fox News.

This article was originally published at 2:40 p.m.


Newsletter
Get our daily Entertainment newsletter
Advertisement