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Fired columnist Roger Friedman sues News Corp.

The Fox News columnist was fired after reviewing a pirated copy of 'X-Men Origins: Wolverine.' He claims Rupert Murdoch was trying to cover his own inadvertent leak of the movie.

July 01, 2009|Joe Flint

Gossip columnist Roger Friedman wants more than $5 million in lost wages and damages from Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. for firing him after he reviewed the company's "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" based on a pirated copy of the movie.

In a lawsuit filed Monday in New York State Supreme Court, Friedman says he was illegally fired from his $250,000-a-year job as a columnist and contributor to Fox News. He reiterated his allegation that the copy of "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" he viewed online was the same copy that had been given to Murdoch, chairman of News Corp.

Friedman claims that Murdoch inadvertently allowed his own copy of "Wolverine" to be pirated -- and had Friedman fired to cover it up.

The suit gives Friedman's take on the events of early April that led to his dismissal.

Friedman said he viewed "Wolverine" online, wrote a column about it, then sent an e-mail to a Fox News lawyer about watching the film online and didn't get a response.

The article went up on the Fox News website April 2, but less than 48 hours later it was taken down.

Friedman said that when he went to his editor, Refet Kaplan, to ask why the review was removed, Kaplan replied, "Rupert Murdoch ordered it taken down."

Nonetheless, he said, Kaplan told him he had spoken to Fox News chief Roger Ailes and that there was nothing to worry about.

But on April 4, according to the suit, Kaplan told Friedman, "Ailes has got to get with Murdoch."

Later that day, Friedman was fired and both News Corp. and 20th Century Fox issued critical statements about Friedman and piracy. The News Corp.-owned studio called Friedman's behavior "reprehensible."

Inside Fox News, Friedman said, he was still hoping for a reprieve. John Moody, one of Ailes' top lieutenants there, told Friedman to keep quiet and that on April 6, there would be a meeting that could "repair the situation," according to the suit.

Friedman, who has hired attorneys Joseph Johnson and Martin Garbus of Eaton & Van Winkle, wants $180,000 he says he is owed on his contract, plus $5 million in damages. In addition to alleging breach of contract, Friedman says the statements from News Corp. and 20th Century Fox libeled him.

Since his firing, Friedman has been blogging for the entertainment trade paper the Hollywood Reporter. He has also been on television recently commenting on Michael Jackson.

A Fox News spokeswoman said the network had not yet been served with the lawsuit.

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joe.flint@latimes.com

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