Top editor files discrimination suit against the New York Post

Copies of The New York Post are displayed at a hotel in midtown Manhattan on Aug 24, 2021. A former high-level editor at The New York Post claimed in a discrimination lawsuit filed on Tuesday, Jan 18, 2022, that she had endured “several years of sex-based harassment” during her more than two decades at the tabloid, saying its longtime editor in chief retaliated against her after she reported to company officers that he had sexually harassed her. Karsten Moran/The New York Times
A former high-level editor at The New York Post claimed in a discrimination lawsuit filed Tuesday that she had endured “several years of sex-based harassment” during her more than two decades at the tabloid, saying its longtime editor-in-chief retaliated against her after she reported to company officers that he had sexually harassed her.

The former editor, Michelle Gotthelf, who joined The Post as a reporter in 2000 and was the editor-in-chief of its website until she was dismissed last week, said in the suit that she had been fired without cause. Gotthelf’s suit names News Corp., the Rupert Murdoch-owned company that operates The Post, and New York Post Holdings. It also names Keith Poole, the current editor-in-chief of the New York Post Group, and Col Allan, the former longtime top editor of The Post who spent more than 40 years leading Murdoch publications in Australia and the United States.

In the legal complaint, Gotthelf said Allan began to harass her in 2013, claiming that he “delighted in degrading Gotthelf, and women generally, in front of her mostly male peers.” She complained to The Post’s publisher and chief executive at the time, Jesse Angelo, who told her that there was not much he could do, according to the suit.

She also accused Allan of propositioning her for sex in 2015 by saying, “We should sleep together.” She rejected his advance and made a complaint to two New York Post editors the next day, according to the suit, and later reported his behaviour to the human resources department and Angelo.

Allan retired from the tabloid in 2016. After spending some time in his native Australia, he returned to The Post in 2019 as an adviser. Several Post employees said that, despite his adviser title, he effectively ran the newsroom.

After his return, Gotthelf said, she was sidelined “in retaliation for her complaints about Allan’s sexual harassment,” according to the suit. In 2019, when she was the editor of the tabloid’s website, he ordered her to remove an article on an accusation of rape against former President Donald Trump by writer E. Jean Carroll. After she disagreed, he became abusive, according to the suit.

Gotthelf complained to Robert Thomson, the chief executive of News Corp, and to the company’s head of human resources, and was told that “if Allan ‘tells you to do something, you do it,’ ” according to the suit.

Gotthelf says in the complaint that in November she told the current editor, Poole, who joined the paper last year, about her experiences with Allan when they were discussing her contract, which was up for renewal. Two months later, Poole fired her, according to the complaint. On Tuesday, Poole announced Gotthelf’s departure in an email to the staff, writing, “I hope you will join me in wishing her the best for the future.”

A spokesperson for News Corp. and The Post said in a statement: “Any suggestion of wrongdoing related to the management changes announced today is meritless.” Allan did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Gotthelf is represented by Wigdor, a New York firm specialising in employment law and led by Douglas Wigdor, who has sued Fox News, the cable news channel led by Murdoch, on behalf of more than two dozen people alleging discrimination. One group of those suits resulted in a $10 million settlement between 18 plaintiffs and the Fox News parent company.

The Post faced a lawsuit similar to Gotthelf’s in 2009, when journalist Sandra Guzman accused the paper and Allan of firing her after she complained about a hostile workplace environment. The suit was settled in 2013, and the terms were not disclosed.

In an interview Tuesday, Gotthelf said she had “a tabloid heart, a tabloid sensibility,” adding, “I never wanted to be the news, but women should not be treated like this in the workplace.”

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