Sexual harassment at Fox News
July 7, 2016 3:20 PM Subscribe
Gretchen Carlson of Fox News Files Harassment Suit Against Roger Ailes
Roger Ailes, the chairman of Fox News, was accused on Wednesday of forcing out a prominent female anchor after she refused his sexual advances and complained to him about persistent harassment in the newsroom, a startling accusation against perhaps the most powerful man in television news.Additional coverage:
In a lawsuit, the anchor, Gretchen Carlson, a longtime Fox employee who left the network last month, portrays Mr. Ailes as a loutish and serial sexual harasser, accusing him of ogling her in his office, calling her “sexy,” and describes a boys’ club environment at the network.
Her charges — including the accusation that Mr. Ailes explicitly asked Ms. Carlson for a sexual relationship during a meeting in his office — amounted to an almost unprecedented public attack on Mr. Ailes, a towering figure in media and Republican politics who typically enjoys absolute loyalty from his employees.
Late Wednesday, the parent company of Fox News, 21st Century Fox, issued a measured statement, saying it had “full confidence’’ in Mr. Ailes, but had initiated an internal review of Ms. Carlson’s charges. “We take these matters seriously,” the company said.
Anchor Gretchen Carlson files lawsuit alleging "pervasive" sexual harassment at Fox News
According to Carlson’s complaint, Carlson met with Ailes last September to complain about ongoing discrimination and retaliation against her, and Ailes replied: "‘I think you and I should have had a sexual relationship a long time ago and then you’d be good and better and I’d be good and better,’ adding that ‘sometimes problems are easier to solve' that way." The complaint also rattles off examples of the "sexually charged comments" Ailes would direct at Carlson in everyday conversation, including:
- "Ogling" Carlson, asking her to turn around "so he could view her posterior," and urging her to wear certain outfits every day because they compliment her figure.
- Telling Carlson to stop worrying about being treated equally and getting "offended so God damn easy about everything," and accusing her of trying to "show up the boys" on Fox & Friends.
- Telling Carlson that she was "sexy, but too much hard work."
- Bragging in Carlson’s presence that he had slept with three former Miss Americas, but not Carlson.
Carlson also complained about repeated harassment from former co-host Steve Doocy
The suit doesn’t name Doocy as a defendant, but it does allege that while he and Carlson were co-hosts of Fox & Friends, Doocy "engaged in a pattern and practice of severe and pervasive sexual harassment of Carlson, including, but not limited to, mocking her during commercial breaks, shunning her off air, refusing to engage with her on air, belittling her contributions to the show, and generally attempting to put her in her place by refusing to accept and treat her as an intelligent and insightful female journalist rather than just a blond prop."
Fox News was enveloped in silence for most of Wednesday, as news ricocheted around New York and Washington of former host Gretchen Carlson’s lawsuit depicting the network’s legendary CEO and chairman Roger Ailes as a pervasive harasser of women.
Under previous legal assaults – including a long-ago sexual harassment claim against the network’s top star, Bill O’Reilly – the network’s defense of itself has been fast and furious.
This time, however, seven hours came and went without word from the network. And when it came, initially from parent network 21st Century Fox, it was a surprise: A promise to conduct an internal investigation of Carlson’s claim that Ailes repeatedly made inappropriate comments about her looks and then declined to renew her contract for refusing to sleep with him. The network also vowed to look into her depiction of her former “Fox & Friends” co-host, Steve Doocy, as a sexist colleague who treated her like “a blond female prop.”
- Fox News Women: Roger Ailes Asked to See My Underwear, If I Was Single, and More
“Since about 11 a.m., we have been contacted by many women who say they were harassed by Roger Ailes and they’ve reached out to us,” Smith said, adding that she hadn’t had an opportunity to talk to them yet. “There are maybe around 10 women who’ve said, ‘I’ve been a victim, too.’”
“One time he asked me if I was wearing underwear, and was he going to see anything ‘good,’” said a former Fox News employee, who said she has spoken with other women at the network who said they were targets of Ailes’s sexually charged remarks. “It’s happened to me and lots of other women… He’s a disgusting pig who’s been getting away with this shit for 20 years.”
A second ex-employee, who also said Ailes verbally harassed her with inappropriate comments during one-on-one meetings, said the powerful and famously combative executive has so far escaped the consequences of his alleged behavior, because “when it comes to this issue, there’s already a conspiracy of silence. The problem is you don’t want to come forward because you don’t want to be personally and professionally destroyed. You don’t want to bring down Roger Ailes’s wrath on your head.”
She added that Ailes is hardly unique in an industry dominated by male executives who sometimes take sexual advantage of their power and position. “Television is really a difficult, arbitrary, and competitive business, and you don’t want to give TV executives a reason to say no,” she said.
A third former Fox News employee told The Daily Beast: “When I met Ailes he wouldn’t stop staring at my legs, and at one point he asked if I was single. I was taken aback and said yes. And he was like, ‘Oh, OK, so you’re not gonna get pregnant any time soon.’ And then he asked my age.
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