An ITV newsreader is launching a legal action against the broadcaster for up to £5million over claims she was the victim of racist discrimination.
Lisa Aziz, who was the first Asian presenter of a national terrestrial news programme, is taking ITV to an employment tribunal after making a series of allegations against colleagues.
She is understood to have claimed that one colleague mimicked former News At Ten anchor Sir Trevor McDonald.
But ITV says it has investigated the 47-year-old presenter’s claims and says they are ‘baseless’.
Ms Aziz was suspended from her position on the news programme West Country Tonight in July after she was accused of fiddling her expenses.
It is alleged that she is to face accusations of gross misconduct after making seven wrongful claims – including a £5.75 bill for dry cleaning a child’s top.
But Ms Aziz is reported to have claimed within legal papers drawn up for her employment tribunal that she was ‘set up’ by senior ITV managers to remove her from her £160,000-a-year job.
The tribunal, scheduled for next March, will examine claims of race, sex and age discrimination.
In a recent interview, Ms Aziz claimed she had been ‘targeted for removal’, saying: ‘I have been replaced by four blondes in their twenties and thirties.’
Ms Aziz, who is a single mother of two and has been a guest of Gordon Brown at Chequers, said the accusations of misuse of expenses have been blown out of proportion, according to the Sunday Times.
‘It was like I was Bernie Madoff,’ she reportedly said. ‘The most insignificant of expenses queries were dangled in front of me as if I were a criminal who’d masterminded the crash of Lehman Brothers.’
An ITV spokesman said: ‘ITV does not ordinarily comment when employee investigations or disciplinary proceedings are active.
‘However on this occasion, given the allegations which have been levelled at the company and a number of employees, we feel that we are left with little choice but to vehemently deny any discriminatory behaviour.
‘ITV follows established and recognised employment procedures and, as a result, we have carried out a full and thorough investigation which found the claims made by Lisa Aziz to be baseless.
‘We will vigorously defend our position in this regard.’
Last year Selina Scott, 58, won £250,000 in compensation from Channel Five on the grounds of age discrimination.