Former Fox News Latino Exec Was a ‘Scapegoat’ for Sexual Harassment, Lawsuit Says

Francisco Cortes says he signed a non-disparagement agreement over Tamara Holder accusations, only to be hung out to dry with a New York Times report

A former vice president for Fox News Latino has filed suit against 21st Century Fox America claiming that he was used as a “scapegoat” to show that Fox aggressively handles sexual harassment complaints.

In the suit, filed Tuesday in federal court in New York against 21st Century Fox America and two unnamed defendants, Francisco Cortes says that, after being accused of sexual assault by Fox contributor Tamara Holder, he signed an agreement with Holder and two unnamed individuals, in which Cortes and agreed not to disparage Fox and Holder, and Fox and Holder agreed not to disparage him regarding the allegations, which the suit says Cortes “vehemently denies.”

However, the suit contends, two weeks after the agreement was signed, Holder and Fox violated the agreement by delivering a “previously planned and carefully negotiated to the New York Times.” The statement had the effect of “destroying Mr. Cortes’ reputation, irreparably damaging his career opportunities, and intentionally and/or with reckless disregard hurting his family,” the lawsuit says.

Alleging fraud, conspiracy to commit fraud, breach of contract, defamation per se, libel per se, slander per se and other counts, the lawsuit seeks more than $48 million in damages.

In March, the New York Times ran a report that Fox News had settled a lawsuit filed by Holder over claims that she was assaulted by Cortes for $2.5 million. According to the report, Holder claimed that Cortes tried to force her to perform oral sex on him in February 2015.

Fox and Holder’s joint statement to the Times read, “Immediately after Ms. Holder notified Fox News of the alleged incident, the company promptly investigated the matter and took decisive action, for which Ms. Holder thanks the network. Fox News is grateful to Ms. Holder for her many contributions during her tenure at the network and wishes her continued success.”

“Mr. Cortes has, thus, served as a useful ‘scapegoat’ (‘Patsy’) for Fox to help it demonstrate that it aggressively handles sexual harassment complaints, as part of a carefully orchestrated plan to permit the Murdochs to eliminate concerns in the U.K. regarding their $15.2 Billion acquisition of Sky in the U.K., and to protect the identity and shelter the reputations of the two UNKNOWN PERSONS who, it must be assumed, were, unlike Mr. Cortes, not Latino, and not financially insignificant to FOX,” Cortes’ lawsuit reads.

“The allegations in this lawsuit are frivolous and without merit,” Fox News told TheWrap in a statement Tuesday.

Pamela Chelin contributed to this report.