MANHATTAN (CN) – Fox News fired a movie critic for reviewing a movie that had been downloaded illegally from the Internet, the critic says. Roger Friedman claims in New York County Court that he watched an unfinished version of “X-Men Origins: Wolverine,” but that he didn’t download it illegally.
Friedman says he viewed a “work print of the unfinished film” that was placed online and screened by Fox News owner Rupert Murdoch. Friedman claims his firing had more to do with covering up his former boss’ mistake.
The 10-year Fox News veteran claims his movie review, written April 1, was removed from the Fox Web site after two days.
“Rupert Murdoch ordered it taken down,” his editor, Refet Kaplan, allegedly told him.
Kaplan said he had discussed the column with Fox News Chief Roger Ailes and John Moody, and neither had indicated it was cause for dismissal, Friedman claims.
Murdoch did not tell anyone at Fox News, News Corp. or 20th Century Fox that he possessed the “Wolverine” copy that Friedman viewed online, the complaint states.
Kaplan also suggested that the pressure could have been motivated by attacks from Scientologists, a group Friedman has been critical of, according to the lawsuit.
Friedman was fired later that day, with 20th Century Fox admonishing in a statement: “We’ve just been made aware of Roger Friedman, a freelance columnist who writes Fox 411 on Foxnews.com – an entirely separate company from 20th Century Fox – watched on the Internet and reviewed a stolen and unfinished version of ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine.’ This behavior is reprehensible and we condemn this act categorically.”
Murdoch issued a statement accusing Friedman of piracy, the lawsuit claims.
Friedman says it was Murdoch who allowed the copy to appear on the Internet, and that the media mogul ordered his companies to fire Friedman to “obscure that fact.”
The statements issued by Fox News “defame and otherwise impugn Friedman’s integrity and reputation in his profession as a journalist,” the former columnist claims.
He points to a January 2009 article from the Times of London, which is owned and controlled by the defendants, entitled “Pirate Sharing Films Throttle Hollywood,” in which Times reporters wrote about illegally downloading a number of films, including Fox’s “Slumdog Millionaire” and “The Wrestler.” The article even gave detailed instructions on how to pirate movies but resulted in no penalties for its writers, Friedman says.
He demands $5 million for wrongful termination, tortious interference and libel. He is represented by Joseph T. Johnson with Eaton & Van Winkle.
“Wolverine,” the latest installment in the popular X-Men franchise, opened May 1 and pulled in $87 million its first weekend. It has earned more than $177 million in the United States.