National Journal senior political columnist Ron Fournier is regularly pilloried as one of the media set’s most dedicated hot takers. But he could also be a terrible boss, too, according to a federal racial discrimination lawsuit filed yesterday by one of his former subordinates at the Associated Press.
The lawsuit, filed by decades-long AP veteran Sonya Ross, alleges that Fournier created a “hostile and abusive” environment for her in the Washington bureau.
Ross, whose race and gender lawsuit describes her as the first African American woman to permanently cover the president for AP, alleges that her career stagnated under Fournier and other AP managers in the Washington bureau.
According to the lawsuit, a federal investigation found that AP allowed “a climate of hostility towards African American employees,” while an AP exec warned its CEO that discrimination against African American employees could have financial consequences.
Fournier comes in for special criticism in the lawsuit, described as pulling Ross off of political convention coverage, botching a job interview with her, and speaking to Ross “very harshly” in front of one of her reporters.
“No sooner than [Fournier] became bureau chief, he began marginalizing Ms. Ross,” the lawsuit alleges.
While Fournier isn’t named at all in the lawsuit or as a defendant, the biographical details of a pseudonymous “Employee A” who ran AP’s Washington bureau match perfectly with former AP bureau chief Fournier. For example, “Employee A” rejoined AP in 2008 from a start-up—the same year that Fournier rejoined AP after leaving start-up HotSoup.com. “Employee A” left AP in 2010 to work for National Journal—the same year Fournier did the same.
In another clue to the pseudonymous bureau chief’s identity, the lawsuit describes AP deputy bureau chief Steve Komarow as replacing “Employee A” in 2010. Similarly, Fournier’s role was filled by Komarow when he left for National Journal.
Ross’ lawyers and Fournier didn’t respond to requests for comment. AP spokeswoman Lauren Easton declined to comment on a personnel matter.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery