The day before a key hearing in the network’s legal battle with a voting machine company suing Fox News for defamation, a pair of lawsuits from a female producer at the network allege that Fox fosters a “toxic workplace” where “truth remains a fugitive,” depicting an environment where women are routinely verbally violated “by a poisonous and entrenched patriarchy.”
A federal lawsuit filed on 20 March from a producer forTucker Carlson Tonight describes a workplace that “subjugates women based on vile sexist stereotypes, typecasts religious minorities and belittles their traditions, and demonstrates little to no regard for those suffering from mental illness.”
Abby Grossberg’s lawsuits allege a litany of sexist remarks aimed at Fox News personality Maria Bartiromo from male colleagues (“crazy,” “menopausal,” “hysterical, “disgusting and difficult to manage”) and derogatory behaviour and comments aimed at other women, including political figures and female colleagues.
But Ms Grossberg’s allegations that Fox lawyers “coerced, intimidated, and misinformed” her as they coached her testimony in Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6bn defamation case – allegations that she says join a legacy of gender-based discrimination at the network – could complicate the ongoing legal battle.
By giving “false/misleading and evasive answers” in her deposition in that case, statements that she claims were encouraged by Fox’s legal team, Ms Grossberg says she put herself at risk of committing perjury, while “subtly shifting all responsibility for the alleged defamation against Dominion onto her shoulders” and those of Ms Bartiromo rather than male leadership at the company.
A complaint from Fox News in Superior Court in New York alleges that Ms Grossberg threatened to publicly disclose privileged conversations she had with Fox lawyers in advance of her own September 2022 deposition in the Dominion case.
Ms Grossberg’s complaint alleges the network has sought to “silence” her from airing her claims after she refused to settle on the network’s terms. “There could hardly be a more vivid and clear example of unlawful retaliation,” according to the complaint.
Her lawsuits were filed in US District Court in New York and Superior Court in Delaware, where the network and Dominion are hearing arguments over whether the defamation case will proceed to a trial in April. Ms Grossberg has been placed on administrative leave, “effectively ending her career” at Fox News, the complaint alleges.
A statement from Fox News to The Independent said the company “engaged an independent outside counsel to immediately investigate the concerns raised by Ms Grossberg, which were made following a critical performance review.”
“Her allegations in connection with the Dominion case are baseless and we will vigorously defend Fox against all of her claims,” according to the statement.
A spokesperson also said Ms Grossberg had “threatened to disclose Fox’s attorney-client privileged information and we filed a temporary restraining order to protect our rights.”
Allegations of ‘systemic chauvinism’ inside the biggest programmes on Fox News
Her complaint – which names the Fox Corporation, Fox leadership, Carlson and his producers, among others – argues that the latest allegations join a pattern of abuse and gender-based retaliation at the company, with more than 10 pages outlining a legacy of “vivid examples of blatant sexual harassment and gender discrimination” from at least 2004.
Ms Grossberg joined the network in 2019 as a booking producer for Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo before she was hired as the head of booking for Tucker Carlson Tonight in September 2022.
She encountered evidence of “systemic chauvinism” at the network shortly after she was hired, her complaint alleges; male leadership intentionally overlooked or rejected her from opportunities because of her gender, repeatedly undermined her decision making, and retaliated against her after she complained about other producers’ unlawful harassment targeting her gender and religion, according to the lawsuit.
Ms Grossberg “was isolated, overworked, undervalued, denied opportunities for promotion, and generally treated significantly worse than her male counterparts, even when those men were less qualified than her,” leading to negative impacts to her mental and physical health, the complaint alleges.
On her first full day with Carlson’s programme, she was greeted “by many large and blown-up photographs of Nancy Pelosi in a plunging bathing suit revealing her cleavage” plastered on her computer and throughout the office, according to the complaint.
A producer also asked her if her former boss Bartiromo is “f****** Kevin McCarthy,” she alleges.
The staff frequently aired in group meetings “misogynistic views of women as objects to be judged solely based on their appearance were broadcasted” and “were always within earshot of the female members of the staff,” according to the complaint.
Male staff at one point reportedly debated whether then-candidate for Michigan Governor Tudor Dixon or her opponent Gretchen Whitmer was “hotter and more f*******.”
Producer Alexander McCaskill allegedly called US Rep Kathryn Cammack “fat like Kelly Clarkson,” to which another male employee said that “she only became a congresswoman because she f***** the person who had the job before her.”
Mr McCaskill in particularly is accused of “habitually” belittling women at the network, including allegedly remarking that a “mother’s room” for employees to pump breast milk was a “waste of space” and “should be replaced with a “room of tanning beds for the guys to tan their testicles.” He also allegedly told another female employee at Carlson’s programme to sleep with Elon Musk to get an interview.
“No woman” regardless of political affiliation “was safe from suddenly becoming the target of sexist, demeaning comments, such as being called a ‘c***,’” according to the complaint.
‘Retaliation’ from male colleagues after speaking out
The same day she complained to a superior about Mr McCaskill’s behaviour, he called her into a meeting to “discuss [her] work performance as Head of Booking,” according to the complaint.
She was reportedly told that “immediate improvement is required for you to fulfill the minimum standards expected as the Head of Booking.”
The complaint alleges that, during the meeting, Mr McCaskell and producer Justin Wells “further berated and attacked Ms Grossberg” after she attempted to direct the meeting back to her complaints about workplace behaviour. Mr Wells allegedly stated: “I don’t think being combative about it going forward after we leave here is going to help anyone. I don’t think it’s going to help you do what you want to do either in this role or with your career.”
“Ultimately, feeling ignored and unprotected by Fox News, and suffering from severe anxiety due to the unlawful treatment she received from her male supervisors and colleagues,” Ms Greenberg sought medical leave as recommended to her by a therapist, she claims.
In an interview with CNN, Ms Grossberg said she filed the lawsuit in the hopes that it could spur changes at Fox News, remaining the “only step” she had to regain her pride and save her career. Ms Grossberg said she wanted to “expose the lies and deceit” that she “witnessed for years” on two of Fox News’ biggest programmes.
“I’ve covered many stories while I have been there,” she told CNN. “Dominion is just a small portion. And I’ve witnessed it from the very beginning until my last day of work last week.”
“It’s constant,” she added. “Ratings are very important to the shows, to the network, and to the hosts. It’s a business and that’s what drives coverage.”