A sexist culture extends into yet another division at Fox
Fox Sports’ president of sports programming was fired on Monday in the wake of the network’s sexual harassment allegations.
Jamie Horowitz’s sudden dismissal is reportedly being linked to the sexual harassment investigation. The Los Angeles Times reported that Horowitz was terminated about a week after Fox Sports began interviewing women, including producers and well-known personalities, regarding the allegations.
And Fox Sports President Eric Shanks suggested that the firing was connected to an issue pertaining to conduct.
“Everyone at FOX Sports, no matter what role we play, or what business, function or show we contribute to — should act with respect and adhere to professional conduct at all times,” he said in an internal memo to his staff. “These values are non-negotiable.”
The network’s move was swift, according to the LA Times. Horowitz was reportedly asked to report to an early morning meeting on Monday, at which time he was greeted by human resource employees, who told him he was being let go.
Patricia Glaser, an attorney for Horowitz, called Fox’s treatment of her client “appalling.”
“At no point in his tenure was there any mention by his superiors or human resources of any misconduct or an inability to adhere to professional conduct,” Glaser said. “Jamie was hired by Fox to do a job, a job that until today he has performed in an exemplary fashion. Any slanderous accusations to the contrary will be vigorously defended.”
Daniel Petrocelli, an attorney representing Fox Sports, said in a statement, “Mr. Horowitz’s termination was fully warranted and his lawyer’s accusations are ill-informed and misguided.”
Horowitz has been known as a controversial figure of Fox Sports, frequently inviting opinionated commentators to speak on the network’s shows so they can exchange in heated debates.
An anonymous woman who worked at Fox Sports told Sports Illustrated that she spoke with human resource officials and recalled her own encounter with Horowitz, who reportedly tried to kiss her.
“I have been working in sports for a long time, and no one has ever been that bold with me,” she said. “I saw him at Fox one day, and he said he wanted to catch up. He said we could meet up to talk. The hook was that he could get me more work. Fox HR called me last week. They asked about what had happened. I gave some details and then called back and gave more details. To Fox’s credit they handled it quickly and really pro-active. They went out of their way to contact me.”
The quick action on Fox Sports’ end contrasts sharply with how Fox News had been handling its allegations of sexual harassment and racial discrimination. Claims of sexual harassment at the hands of top Fox News employees were swept under the rug in the form of settlements totaling tens of millions of dollars.
Accusations of sexual harassment against former chairman Roger Ailes, who passed away earlier this year, and former top personality Bill O’Reilly, among others, were handled quietly and did not result in terminations until after the allegations went public. For Fox, payouts appear to be just the cost of doing business.
Last year, Fox News agreed to pay $20 million alone to settle a harassment suit by former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson on behalf of Ailes, who denied any wrongdoing but resigned in July. With regard to allegations against O’Reilly, five women received settlements in exchange for not suing the company.
The New York Times reported previously that three of the settlements involving O’Reilly had been previously undisclosed, dating back to 2002. Fox settled two of them, and in 2011, O’Reilly privately settled a third.
Meanwhile, more than a dozen current and former employees of color are currently suing the network and its parent company, 21st Century Fox, for racial discrimination, including reporter Kelly Wright. They claim they were mocked and humiliated because of their race and paid less than white coworkers. Wright, a former co-host of “Fox & Friends Weekend,” has been with the company since 2003.
Tichaona Brown, a payroll manager who joined the company in 2008, and Wright, who joined in 2014, said executives at Fox News and 21st Century Fox ignored repeated complaints against Judith Slater’s series of racial harassment.
Slater, the former senior vice president of accounting and comptroller who worked at the company for 19 years, was fired in February.