This week, Judge Sweet dismissed a complaint brought by a former Fox News Latino vice president who was terminated after a Fox News contributor accused him of sexual assault. According to the complaint, a joint statement by Fox News and the accuser published in a New York Times article — stating that Fox News took “decisive action” in response to the accuser’s complaints — violated a mutual non-disparagement clause in the plaintiff’s termination agreement, and was defamatory. The complaint also alleged that the statement was part of a wider conspiracy to boost the image of Fox News in the wake of the Roger Ailes scandal (supposedly at the expense of plaintiff’s career).
Judge Sweet called the plaintiff’s complaint “worthy of its own Martin Scorsese thriller” and found that “both law and sechel [common sense]” justified the dismissal. The joint statement was not defamatory or disparaging, Judge Sweet found, because it did not even mention the plaintiff by name. Accordingly, it could not “be read plausibly to indicate anything, let alone anything discrediting, about Plaintiff.” That the New York Times published the statement within an article that did name the plaintiff was not enough to impose liability on Fox News, because Fox News was “not plausibly responsible for what else was written” in the article.