Veteran New York Post editor has filed a federal lawsuit claiming the tabloid’s former editor-in-chief propositioned her for sex and routinely referred to women using terms like “skank” and “sneaky lesbian,” and that she was fired for complaining about his conduct.
Michelle Gotthelf, having served as the Post’s digital editor-in-chief, brought her complaint against News Corp. and NYP Holdings Inc. – which she described as the New York Post company – as well as former longtime editor-in-chief Col Allan and others, alleging discrimination and retaliation under New York City and state human rights laws.
"Mr. Allan's request that Ms. Gotthelf sleep with him was the culmination of several years of sex-based harassment that Ms. Gotthelf had to endure because, according to Mr. Allan, Ms. Gotthelf reminded him of his wife," her suit said.
Gotthelf, had been with the company for about 20 years before she was fired in January, alleged that among other things, Col asked her for sex, told her he loved her, and ordered her to pull coverage of a defamation lawsuit against former President Donald Trump by the writer E. Jean Carroll, who said Trump raped her in the 1990s.
Allan created a hostile work environment for Gotthelf starting around 2013, she said in the suit. He "delighted in degrading Ms. Gotthelf, and women generally, in front of her mostly male peers," the suit said, including by saying to Gotthelf in the newsroom, "Who do you think you are, my wife?" He also insulted other women, calling those in news stories "stupid" and "skanks" and labeling another female Post editor "a sneaky lesbian," according to the suit.
After an off-site meeting in 2015, Allan told Gotthelf his wife had been sleeping with someone else, the suit said. She responded that he should do the same, according to the suit.
"What about you? We should sleep together," Allan said then, according to the complaint. Gotthelf said she turned him down and left the bar. She reported him to a couple of editors and then to human resources, the suit said.
By April 2016, Post owner and media tycoon Rupert Murdoch had announced Allan's retirement to the newsroom, Gotthelf said. She characterized it as a resignation "in disgrace" following her complaints.
Gotthelf said she was then given the role of managing editor so she would stay quiet, but her responsibilities were stripped in retaliation for her complaints. For example, young reporters were given authority to publish their own stories, something she should have overseen, the suit claimed.
Gotthelf said that when she returned from work in early 2019 after her father's death, she fielded a call from Allan in which he told her he loved her, which she later learned was a drunken prank call.
"The company shrugged off the harassment, reasoning that 'It was just Col being Col. He hasn't changed,'" the suit said.
Allan was then rehired, this time as a "consultant," Gotthelf said. Though she'd negotiated a new contract that said she wouldn't have to work for him, it happened anyway, she claimed. He ordered her, using expletives, to take down a story about Carroll's rape accusations against Trump, calling Carroll's allegations "baseless," according to the suit.
Gotthelf was later named digital editor-in-chief in 2019, according to a News Corp. press release.
In November 2021, defendant Keith Poole — whose LinkedIn says he took over the editor-in-chief role at the New York Post Group in March of that year — asked Gotthelf about her allegations about Allan, and she told him, according to the suit.
A memo from Poole to the paper's staff on Tuesday morning, which a spokesperson provided to Law360, confirmed that Gotthelf is no longer employed by the Post.
"I wanted to let you know that Michelle Gotthelf has departed The Post, effective January 15. I want to take this opportunity to thank her for all she has done during her 20-plus-year tenure here, and I hope you will join me in wishing her the best for the future," the memo said.
Poole and Allan are named as defendants in both their professional and individual capacities.
In a statement Tuesday, the company spokesperson said, "Any suggestion of wrongdoing related to the management changes announced today is meritless."
In 2013, the Post settled a race and sex bias suit filed by former associate editor Sandra Guzman, in which Allan was also named as a defendant. Guzman was represented in part by Douglas Wigdor, one of Gotthelf's attorneys in Tuesday's suit.
Wigdor's firm, Wigdor LLP, has also brought high-profile sex harassment suits against Fox News, one of Murdoch's other properties.
In a statement provided through her lawyers Tuesday, Gotthelf said, "While I never intended to become the news, the truth of what happened to me deserves to be heard. I will miss my colleagues dearly and hope that by speaking out there can be positive change for other women at the Post."