Reports of lawsuits against Fox News continue to shed light on the toxic work environment within the network. Kelly Wright, co-anchor on Fox’s Saturday edition of America’s News Headquarters, has joined the racial discrimination lawsuit a group of employees recently filed against the network.
As reported by New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman, nine black employees have already sued Fox News for racial harassment. The racial discrimination lawsuit follows several other sexual harassment reports and lawsuits against the network’s leadership that have revealed a toxic work environment in which offenders -- in many instances -- have been reportedly aided and abetted by current co-President Bill Shine. Fox isn’t the only major cable news network battling reports of racial discrimination. According to The Hollywood Reporter, “CNN and other Time Warner units” were sued by a former employee, Celeslie Henley, who was “allegedly fired after emailing human resources about discriminatory treatment.”
On April 26, Wright announced during a press conference that he was joining his colleagues in their lawsuit against Fox. He bemoaned the way Fox leaders “seem to overlook the value of diversity or inclusion in the workplace,” and called the network out for their “disregard to equality.” From Wright’s April 26 press conference:
KELLY WRIGHT (FOX NEWS ANCHOR): I’m here because leadership, while focused on making sure the brand of Fox News could dominate in the ratings -- flourish financially to benefit each and everyone of us who work there and develop a powerful organization, somewhere along the way, they have lost their way and they’ve failed to include equality for all. The greatness failed to be fair and balanced to all of our employees regardless of race, gender, faith, creed, or color. Our leaders simply seem to overlook the value of diversity or inclusion in the workplace. And yes, we have contributors who appear on our shows to express their opinions and they’re people of color but we literally have a handful of black and Hispanic-Latino reporters or anchors. As you may know by now that I am the only black male anchor, which in 2017 should not be the case, and it speaks volumes of the disregard to equality at Fox News.
It is indefensible and inexcusable when there are so many talented black men and women who are more than capable to fulfill that role. We have a culture of systemic and institutional racial bias and so, when my colleagues from other departments began to publicly reveal their encounters with blatant acts of discrimination in their department, I watched it, I prayed about it, I cried over it. I can no longer sit in silence, collect my paycheck and act like I didn’t experience racial bias on my own level as an on-air personality. Behind closed doors I found myself confronted with race albeit in a more subtle but in a demeaning way and marginalizing my own growth and my development that would not only benefit me but benefit others. In my case, for many years I consistently and often emphatically asked leaders at Fox News to grow as a company and open the door wide to more opportunities and possibilities to hire and develop men and women of color. I knew that Fox had a weak image in terms of race. I encountered it on the job and in the public with comments from people like, “You’ll never excell there because you’re not the right color.” Or “You’re not blonde enough.” Or “They’ll only allow you to go, but so far.” Some people have even asked me, “How can a black man [inaudible] work at Fox News?” Some have even referred to me being an “acceptable black” who is tolerated but never celebrated. I’ve heard all the arguments about why I should not work at Fox News, but few people understand why I do work at Fox News and why I have every right to be there and still be there to deliver news. I have the right to work there or anywhere in this country not because of the color of my skin but certainly because of the content of my character and I stand before you -- sit before you as a human being, perfectly flawed, but perfectly loved, by my wife who is here with me today, by my children, who are not here but in support of me, and certainly by people, viewers, many viewers who like the work that I do. And even by my haters and detractors, who say I shouldn’t even be here. But I do have a right to stand up for justice. Not just for me but for the people you see behind me. I’m more than qualified, and there are other people who are more than qualified to do greater work than I do. When Doug asked me about this, he said, “What do you want?” I said, “I want to make it possible for whoever fills my shoes -- that next generation -- to never go through this.” That also means I should not have some sort of glass ceiling placed over me. It also means that management should not place an umbrella or a lid over my career or the career of anyone, to marginalize us and our development, and not extend to us the opportunity to grow simply based on the color of our skin and what they deem is acceptable to their viewers.
Some people have said, “You’re in a good position. Forget about it. Fox will never get rid of you because they need more black men to defend themselves against the critics who accuse Fox of racial bias.” Well, I’m not here to be a token either. I’m here to be a valued employee who, like all of my fellow workers you see with me, are privileged and honored to be their voice today to do my job in the best possible environment for growth. And when I see something that needs to be addressed, I should point it out and offer ideas to help improve our company. And that’s exactly what I did. I’ve had direct talks with leaders over the past 10 years explaining and even pleading with them to allow all of us and me in particular to show the accomplishments, contributions and brilliance within America’s communities, particularly communities of color. To never overlook the negative situations that do exist within black or Latino communities but also to show the positive and inspiring people within those communities who proactively strive to right the wrongs and pave the way out of downtrodden and impoverished conditions through education, through faith, through fortitude, and forgiveness.