NEW YORK (Reuters) - The New York Post lost a bid to dismiss a lawsuit by a former editor who said she was fired after complaining about racism and sexism, including a cartoon that appeared to liken U.S. President Barack Obama to a chimpanzee.
Sandra Guzman, a black and Puerto Rican associate editor, alleged she was fired September 29, 2009, in retaliation for her complaints over inappropriate conduct, including one senior executive she accused of referring to her as “Cha Cha #1.”
The lawsuit also alleged that Guzman was among those who complained about a February 18, 2009, cartoon in the newspaper depicting a policeman shooting a crazed chimpanzee, a play on an actual Connecticut incident.
The caption read: “They’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill.”
Many people saw the chimpanzee as a depiction of Obama, who had just signed into law a $787 billion economic stimulus. New York Post Chairman Rupert Murdoch later apologized to readers for the cartoon.
In a ruling released on Monday, U.S. District Judge Barbara Jones in Manhattan said Guzman had raised a plausible retaliation claim, making dismissal inappropriate at this stage.
“Mindful of the First Amendment protections enjoyed by newspaper organizations,” Jones wrote, “the court notes that plaintiff has sufficiently alleged that she objected not just to the paper’s content but to the general work environment at the Post and the way the editorial staff dealt with the publication of the content at issue.”
A lawyer for the Post did not immediately return a call seeking comment. Kenneth Thompson, a lawyer for Guzman, said his client “looks forward to going to trial.”
The Post said it ended Guzman’s employment because a monthly insert she edited was discontinued amid a decline in advertising.
The case is Guzman v. News Corp et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 09-09323.
Reporting by Jonathan Stempel; Editing by Steve Orlofsky