Tariq Khan, a former assignment editor and weekend foreign news desk manager for Fox News, claims the network unjustly fired him as retaliation after he repeatedly complained about his boss’s misogynistic, Islamophobic and bigoted behavior.
In a complaint filed Sept. 28 in the Southern District of New York, Khan asserts that Fox’s VP of news coverage Greg Headen—who previously ran the network’s foreign news desk—frequently used foul and homophobic language in the workplace. Additionally, Khan alleges, Headen, who was his immediate supervisor, also “repeatedly demonstrated prejudice towards Muslim people and made a handful of remarks at work associating Islam with terrorism in the presence of Mr. Khan, who practices Islam.”
Khan, who also served as the network’s resident Academy Awards expert, claims that Fox News “unlawfully terminated” him this past May, allegedly violating his rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and the New York City Human Rights Law.
“Mr. Kahn’s persistent allegations were thoroughly investigated throughout his tenure and deemed meritless,” a Fox News spokesperson said in a statement. “We are fully committed to defending against these baseless allegations in court.”
Khan’s claims of wrongful termination and retaliation come as another longtime employee alleged Fox News pushed him out over his complaints about the conservative cable giant’s coverage of the Jan. 6 insurrection. Jason Donner, a former Capitol Hill reporter for the network, filed his lawsuit in D.C. a day before Khan’s was logged in New York.
Throughout his complaint, Khan portrays Headen as a foul-mouthed bigot who grew increasingly hostile to him after learning about Khan’s complaints to human resources about his workplace demeanor.
“For example, Mr. Headen frequently used the terms ‘bitch,’ ‘douche bag,’ ‘cocksucker,’ and ‘cunt,’ among other shocking, profane, and discriminatory terms,” the complaint states.
Noting that he greatly enjoyed his first seven years working at Fox News after starting in 2008, Khan says “that all changed” in 2015 when Headen was made the foreign desk manager and his immediate supervisor.
Over the next few years, Khan claims, Headen referred to a co-worker as a “fucker” and “dick,” called a female colleague a “stupid cunt,” and “berated a female coworker until she cried.” Furthermore, despite knowing that Khan was of Muslim descent, Headen allegedly made Islamophobic remarks in his presence.
“For instance, in November of 2015 after the coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris, Mr. Headen made an offensive comment that the attacks were ‘par for the course for Islamic state motherfuckers.’ Moreover, in March of 2016, Mr. Headen commented in the Newsroom that ‘motherfucking Muslim terrorists’ were to blame for the terrorist attacks in Brussels,” the complaint says. “As a Muslim, Mr. Khan was uncomfortable with Mr. Headen’s clear association of terrorism with all Muslim individuals, particularly Muslim men.”
According to the lawsuit, Khan first reported his concerns about Headen’s frequent use of profanity to HR in late 2016, following up in January 2017. He claims that the complaints went unaddressed until March of that year, at which point HR assured him his grievances had been reported and to continue instructing the department if Headen continued his behavior.
“When Mr. Headen continued to use extremely unprofessional and offensive language, Mr. Khan requested that Fox change his schedule to avoid working with Mr. Headen. Fox ignored his request.” the complaint adds. “In April 2017, Mr. Khan spoke with the Executive Vice President of HR, Mr. Kevin Lord, who assured him that Fox has a zero-tolerance policy for excessive profanity and offensive language. Mr. Lord told Mr. Khan that he would speak to Mr. Headen about his frequent use of foul and demeaning language.”
The lawsuit adds that Headen’s behavior temporarily improved in mid-2017 after Khan informed the network’s diversity outreach director of the ongoing workplace issues, only to allegedly reverse in 2018 after Headen “learned that Mr. Khan was the individual who had complained about his offensive language to Human Resources.”
According to the complaint, Headen confronted Khan and then “resumed his habit of frequently using offensive and profane language” in 2020. Khan claims by that time, the network “simply told him that there was nothing more they could do to improve the situation” and “he should accept the fact that some people need to use profanity to deal with work pressures.”
By late 2020, the complaint says, Khan continued to receive no response from Lord over his continued complaints about Headen’s ongoing behavior, expressing concern that Fox News’ well-known reputation for retaliating against employees who complain to management could come soon affect him. “I fear that the underlying tensions will eventually lead to more issues (including my complaints of retaliation) like we’ve had in the past,” Khan wrote at the time.
The complaint further claims that Khan’s requests for a new supervisor were denied and that the network “conducted an investigation and later told Mr. Khan that Fox had not found Mr. Headen’s offensive language to be excessive and found no evidence of retaliation.”
Fox News’ Vice President of Employee Relations Anna Druker eventually suggested arranging a severance package for Khan to leave the company due to the tensions between him and Headen, the suit claims. At the same time, Khan was asked to meet with an attorney regarding an investigation into Headen after female employees complained about Headen’s treatment of women.
Khan says he declined the offers of a severance package because of his “passion for his job” and attempted to mend the relationship with Headen, only for Headen to express “his anger towards” Khan during their interactions.
“In January of 2023, Ms. Druker contacted Mr. Khan to discuss her conversation with Mr. Headen regarding his inappropriate conduct,” the complaint states. “She informed Mr. Khan that an HR investigation concluded that Mr. Headen committed no policy violations. She excused his behavior and did not address his anti-Muslim statements.”
Four months later, Khan alleges, Fox News “unjustly and unlawfully terminated” him, claiming it was “due to restructuring.”
Khan’s lawsuit comes amid a spate of litigation against the conservative network. Fox settled voting software firm Dominion’s defamation suit, which alleged that the network knowingly peddled election lies to boost sagging ratings, for a massive $787.5 million this spring. Fox is also staring down a similar lawsuit from Smartmatic, a defamation suit from Jan. 6 demonstrator Ray Epps, and complaints from shareholders over the network’s 2020 election coverage.
Furthermore, the network has settled lawsuits with a number of ex-employees who have complained about gender and racial discrimination, sexual harassment, and a toxic work environment. Most recently, Fox News agreed to pay former Tucker Carlson producer Abby Grossberg $12 million to drop her allegations that the network coerced her into giving false testimony in the Dominion case while subjecting her to antisemitism and misogyny in the workplace.
Source : The Daily Beast