(WWJ) A $100 million federal lawsuit filed by a former WXYZ reporter claims morning anchor Malcolm Maddox sent her lewd and graphic messages and was rewarded after her complaints with bigger and better jobs in the news.
Tara Edwards says Maddox was promoted to the coveted morning anchor slot while she was moved to another shift, and then fired. Following the suit’s filing on Tuesday, Maddox was ” temporarily” taken off the air.
Among the complaints, Edwards says Maddox asked if he could send her pictures of his penis so that she could rate it “on a scale of 1-10.” He also allegedly showed her nude photos of a female co-worker, asked if he could urinate or spit on her during sex, and sent her a message saying he wanted to “rock her f*** world.” [See the complaint HERE.]
She claims while they were co-anchoring, he once showed her a video of his girlfriend shooting grapes from her nether regions.
When she refused to accept any more of his emails, she says he tricked her into looking at sexually explicit messages.
“After (Edwards) rejected the propositions to accept delivery of pictures of his penis, Mr. Maddox asked (Edwards) to look at a ‘work email’ on his cellphone that turned out to be a picture of his penis,” Michael Hanna, Edwards’ lawyer wrote, in the lawsuit.
In another salvo against the station, she claims after she initially brought the lewd messages to management, Maddox was never properly disciplined. Edwards said it was at that time she asked if she thought she could continue to work there.
“So imagine how difficult it was to become so helpless, so hopeless and voiceless in my own nightmare for so long,” Edwards said, at a news conference Tuesday. “From the beginning, all I ever wanted was for my name to be cleared. All I ever wanted was for Mr. Maddox to admit the vile, vicious and nasty rumors were not true.”
Attorney Geoffrey Fieger, who is representing Edwards along with law firm Morgan & Morgan, said they have several witnesses to support Edwards’ claims.
“There are people at the station, other women and men, who know about what happened here in this case,” Fieger told WWJ’s Jon Hewett and other reporters. “….And I don’t want to specifically identify (them) — but I’m sure the identities will eventually become known, very high-ups at the station who are no longer there — who have provided evidence under oath of the veracity of Tara’s complaints, and the fact that it was covered up by WXYZ, shoved under the rug if you will, minimized, and really basically ignored to the extent that she was forced to leave.”
“Ultimately,” Fieger added, “they wanted their anchor, who is an African-American, to stay in place rather than Tara to have and maintain her dignity and their rights.”
A statement issued by the E.W. Scripps Company, parent company of WXYZ, said Maddox in 2015 had engaged in inappropriate communications with coworkers that did not conform to company policy. At that time, Maddox received corrective action, including a two-week unpaid suspension, consistent with company procedures.
On Edwards’ part, she says she was fired in 2016 in retaliation for her complaints. “Nothing was done to rectify defendant’s sexual harassment and hostile work environment,” the lawsuit says.
Later in the day, Scripps President and CEO Adam Symson said in a news statement that company “takes very seriously allegations of sexual harassment or any type of workplace harassment.” To avoid any “further distraction,” the company said Maddox will be off the air “for the time being.”
The station outlined the “facts of the situation” in a release to WWJ Newsradio 950:
“In early 2015, when allegations about Malcom Maddox’s workplace behavior came to light, WXYZ immediately conducted an investigation.
The investigation found that Maddox had engaged in inappropriate communications with coworkers that did not conform to the policies of WXYZ or its parent company The E.W. Scripps Co. Maddox was disciplined immediately, receiving a two-week unpaid suspension, consistent with company procedures.
The female employee who voiced these concerns continued to work at WXYZ. She was not fired or forced out — she left the company voluntarily in December 2016 for personal reasons.
When the events from the 2015 investigation were raised again in 2017, Scripps itself investigated, strongly encouraging employees to share anything they knew about the prior situation or possible problems since then. Nothing was reported that warranted additional discipline.
Scripps then brought in an outside independent investigator early this year, who also found no evidence of further misconduct by Maddox after his 2015 discipline.
The singular focus of WXYZ is to serve the community by providing quality local journalism. To avoid any further distraction from this core mission, Malcom Maddox will be off the air for the time being. “
The station released a statement in December saying that a two-week investigation found allegations against Maddox — that had resurfaced — had already been handled.