Ex-Fox News Executive Accused of Sexual Assault Sues the Company

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Tamara Holder, a former contributor to Fox News, accused Francisco Cortes of sexual assault.

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Lyndon French for The New York Times

A former Fox News executive sued 21st Century Fox on Tuesday, accusing the company of making him a scapegoat in an effort to battle negative publicity about sexual misconduct.

Francisco Cortes, who was the vice president for Fox News Latino, was accused of sexual assault by Tamara N. Holder, a former Fox News contributor, who said he tried to force her to perform oral sex on him in his office in February 2015. She did not immediately pursue the matter with the police or with Fox. The New York Times reported in March that 21st Century Fox, Fox News’s parent company, had reached a settlement with Ms. Holder worth more than $2.5 million.

The article included a joint statement from Fox News and Ms. Holder that said she had reported an assault and the network had investigated and taken action. That statement represented a breach of a confidentiality agreement with Mr. Cortes, his suit argues, adding that the same agreement prevented him from defending himself out of fear Fox would sue him.

He said he had been in job talks with “three major networks,” but all three ceased communications after the article.

“Mr. Cortes has served as a useful and relatively inexpensive ‘Patsy’ for FOX to help it demonstrate that it has aggressively handled sexual harassment complaints,” the complaint says.

In his lawsuit, Mr. Cortes denies the allegations of sexual assault and asserts that the settlement between Fox and Ms. Holder was also signed by two “unknown persons.” It speculates that 21st Century Fox was invested in shielding their identities and that they were “not Latino, and not financially insignificant to Fox.”

In a statement, Fox News called the allegations in the suit “frivolous and without merit.”

In an email Tuesday, Ms. Holder said: “I was sexually assaulted. Immediately after I told the company where I worked about the incident, it promptly investigated the matter and took action, which I appreciate.’’

The Times is not a party in the lawsuit, though the complaint accuses it of “collaborating” with Fox in its article about the settlement. It suggests that the reporter, Emily Steel, was “beholden” to the network because she formerly worked at The Wall Street Journal, which like Fox News…

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