MANHATTAN (CN) – The New York Post harassed and fired an Emmy Award-winning journalist after she complained about its publishing “a racist, offensive and dangerous cartoon suggesting the assassination of President Barack Obama,” Sandra Guzman claims in New York County Court.
Guzman says she was the national tabloid’s only female editor of color. Her 38-page complaint includes the cartoon the Post ran on Feb. 18, which shows two policemen looking at a chimpanzee lying dead in a pool of blood in an alley, with two bullet holes in its chest. One cop hold a smoking gun and the other cop says, “They’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill.”
Guzman says that “virtually all the executives” at the Post are white men, creating a work environment “permeated with racist and sexist conduct and comments towards employees of color and women.”
Given “the country’s long history of racist imagery of blacks being depicted as apes, gorillas, chimpanzees and monkeys,” Guzman says she told her bosses “that the chimpanzee cartoon was yet another in a litany of examples of the racism pervasive in the work environment at the Post.”
She says they fired her on Sept. 29
Guzman says she was hired as an associate editor in 2003, partly because then-publisher Lachlan Murdoch wanted to increase the Post’s minority readership. Guzman says she created the “Tempo” section, a monthly insert focusing on the Latino community; founded the “Tempo Espresso” blog, highlighting its breaking stories and issues; and spearheaded more then 25 features for Black History Month, St. Patrick’s Day, Israeli Independence Day and other special sections.
She says Latino readership jumped by 40 percent under her editorship.
Guzman says her direct supervisor Joseph Robinowitz wrote in a performance evaluation in July 2008 that “Sandra oversees and produces first-rate sections … The sections are well-edited, well-designed and contain interesting reads and interviews and scores of useful tips, pointers and tidbits of valuable information.”
But she adds that she was “never given a full-time staff of writers to work with and instead had to recruit writers who were not otherwise busy on other assignments.”
The bulk of her on-the-job harassment came from editor-in-chief Col Allan, a named defendant, whose “repeated inappropriate and sexist comments and conduct have been widely known,” Guzman says.
During one party, Allan allegedly approached Guzman and three female colleagues, pulled out a Blackberry, and showed them a picture of a “naked man lewdly and openly displaying his penis.” After they expressed their disgust, Allan “just smirked,” Guzman says.
Another time, she says Allan rubbed his penis against a female employee and made sexually suggestive comments about her breasts and body.
Guzman says Allan once bragged about taking “two Australian political leaders to the strip club Scores in Manhattan, where they watched strippers perform, reportedly had too much to drink and were ejected from the club by its bouncers,” while he was top editor.
She claims News Corp Senior Vice President Les Goldstein nicknamed Guzman “Cha Cha 1,” called her “sexy,” and openly stared at female employees’ breasts and butts in her presence ,while licking his lips.
After Guzman complained to the editor-in-chief about this behavior, Allan allegedly “screamed at her that it was part of her job to be ‘nice’ to Goldstein”
According to Guzman, the Post’s record of racism is a lengthier than its sexism. The lawsuit lists as examples a headline that a Mexican-American governor threw his “sombrero” in the ring in a political race; an alleged incident in which a white managing editor gloated over the arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates because she thought he was an “Angry Black Man”; and the publication of an article that used a lynching image to describe the appropriate response to a criminal complaint against black NFL star Plaxico Burress.
Guzman says the Post even considered portraying Jews as “sewer rats” in a cartoon.
According to the lawsuit, The Post claimed it fired Guzman “for budgetary reasons,” yet found money in the budget “to hire three white male employees, including a new columnist, who … each earn over $100,000 per year.”
Guzman claims “a high ranking white editor at the Post confided … that she was indeed fired because she complained about the discrimination at the company and stood up to [Col] Allan.”
Guzman seeks punitive damages for discrimination, harassment and retaliation. She sued News Corp., NYP Holdings dba The New York Post, and Col Allan, and is represented by Kenneth Thompson with Thompson Wigdor & Gilly.