Former Fox News Latino vice president Francisco Cortes, who was accused of sexual assault against an on-air contributor and was later terminated, says in a new $48 million lawsuit that he was used as a “scapegoat” to demonstrate that the network “aggressively handles sexual harassment complaints.” The 54-page suit, obtained by Variety, alleges that the move was, in part, to ease concerns regarding Fox’s pending $15.2 billion acquisition of U.K. broadcaster Sky.
In March, the New York Times reported that Fox News contributor Tamara Holder reached a settlement with 21st Century Fox worth more than $2.5 million. In her lawsuit, Holder alleged that Cortes attempted to force her to perform oral sex on him. In Cortes’ suit on Tuesday, he contends that their relationship was consensual, and that he could provide proof in the form of “emails, text messages, with photos, and other supporting documentation.”
In his lawsuit, filed in New York federal court, Cortes claims that two other unnamed individuals were involved in the settlement, and, in its statement to the New York Times in March, Fox News violated an agreement the parties had made. Cortes, who was said to be close to ousted Fox News chief Roger Ailes, also took issue with the fact that the two individuals, unlike himself, were not named in the report.
“These two UNKNOWN PERSONS, it must be assumed, were, unlike Mr. Cortes, not Latino, not financially insignificant to FOX, and not without some utility to Tamara Holder’s career if she would only agree to continue to protect them and shield their reputations from the damage necessarily incurred by accusations of sexual harassment,” reads the complaint.
Fox News issued a statement about the complaint later on Tuesday, saying, “The allegations in this lawsuit are frivolous and without merit.”
Cortez is suing for breach of contract, fraudulent misrepresentation, civil conspiracy, intentional interference with contractual relations, defamation, slander, and libel. He’s seeking $12 million in damages and an additional $36 million in punitive damages.