This cartoon image provided by the New York Post appeared in the Post's Page Six Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2009. The cartoon, which refers to Travis the chimp, who was shot to death by police in Stamford, Conn. on Monday after it mauled a friend of its owner, drew criticism Wednesday on media Web sites and from civil rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton. (AP Photo/New York Post) ** NO SALES **
A former editor for The New York Post, who is suing the paper for allegedly firing her after she complained about a cartoon that likened President Obama to a chimp, alleges in court papers that the the newspaper is a hotbed of sexism, racism and sexual harrasment.
Sandra Guzman, who lost her job in October, filed a 38-page complaint against News Corporation, which owns the Post, and the paper's editor-in-chief Col Allan in federal court this week, accusing the defendants of harassment and "unlawful employment practices and retaliation," reports the Huffington Post.
Guzman describes sexually exploitative behavior by Allan at a party for the Post, accusing him of showing her and other women lewd, naked pictures and saying the company never did anything to investigate her complaints when she filed them internally.
"On one occasion when Ms. Guzman and three female employees of the Post were sharing drinks at an after-work function, defendant Allan approached the group of women, pulled out his BlackBerry and asked them 'What do you think of this?'" while showing a full-frontal picture of a naked man, according to court papers.
She also claims she was subjected to racist jokes from editors who mocked her Hispanic heritage by singing "I want to live in America" from "West Side Story" whenever she walked by their offices, reports the Huffington Post.
In the lawsuit, Guzman paints Allan as a misogynist, and the entire Post newsroom as a fraternity house. She alleges that racial bias factored more heavily into hiring and firing decisions than merit, and claimed that racial prejudice extended to the publication's objective, which was to "destroy Barack Obama," she recalled the paper's D.C. bureau chief saying, reports the Huffington Post.
"The last five employees who were recently terminated by Paul Carlucci, the Publisher of the Post.... Have all been black and/or women of color," court papers say.
A spokesperson for the Post dismissed the lawsuit as "baseless."
“This lawsuit has no merit and is based on charges that are groundless," said a spokeswoman for Rubenstein Associates, which represents the Post. " As previously stated, Ms. Guzman’s position was eliminated when the section she edited was discontinued due to a decline in advertising sales.”
While Guzman alleges an array of charges in her complaint, the lawsuit is particularly in response to her termination for speaking out against a cartoon that sparked outrage across the nation and ignited protests in front of the Post building led by the Rev. Al Sharpton. The cartoon, created by controversial Post cartoonist Sean Delonas, depicted a dead chimp and two police officers, one with a smoking gun.
The caption read, "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus."
In her complaint, Guzman argued that several editors felt the cartoon was offensive and didn't say anything. But such distasteful coverage wasn't abnormal for the Post, she alleged in the complaint. In her tenure, Guzman claimed she found out the Post had intended to run a cartoon portraying Jewish people as sewer rats, reports the Huffington Post. And Delonas has a history of creating cartoons that a widely deemed unsavory, sexist, racist or anti-gay.
Guzman decided to speak out against what she perceived to be a racist cartoon, becoming one of the thousands across the country to ask the Post to apologize for the illustration. But in the months following her stand, she says her bosses made her job increasingly hard for her and denied her opportunities to advance her career, reports the Huffington Post.
Guzman said she was editing 24 sections aside from Tempo, and said she was filing the lawsuit because it's not easy to stand up against discrimination and sometimes you have to do the right thing, according to an e-mail obtained by the Huffington Post.