Carlson sues Fox News CEO for sexual harassment
Media | Anchor says she was fired for speaking out about mistreatment
by Ciera Horton
Posted 7/08/16, 02:43 pm
Former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson filed a lawsuit Wednesday against Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, accusing him of sexual harassment. The allegation follows the termination of Carlson’s contract on June 23.
Carlson, the 1989 Miss America, claims she “refused to sleep” with Ailes and reported “disparaging treatment in the newsroom,” leading to her dismissal from Fox.
“I have strived to empower women and girls throughout my entire career,” Carlson said in a statement. “Although this was a difficult step to take, I had to stand up for myself and speak out for all women and the next generation of women in the workplace.”
Ailes claims Carlson’s statements are false and defamatory: “This is a retaliatory suit for the network’s decision not to renew her contract, which was due to the fact that her disappointingly low ratings were dragging down the afternoon lineup.”
Carlson co-hosted Fox & Friends from 2006 until 2013, when she replaced Megyn Kelly’s afternoon slot as Kelly moved to primetime. The lawsuit characterizes the move as a demotion accompanied by a decrease in pay and an increase in workload because Carlson voiced complaints about the behavior of co-host Steve Doocy, saying he belittled her on the set. She also claims Fox ultimately fired her “after she rebuffed Mr. Ailes’ sexual advances and also tried to challenge what she felt was unequal treatment of her in the newsroom by some of her male colleagues.”
Though the lawsuit mentions both Ailes and Doocy, Ailes is the only defendant named. Carlson claims Ailes told her last September, “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. Sometimes problems are easier to solve that way.” Carlson accuses Ailes of commenting on her body, saying she was “sexy,” asking her to turn around so “he could view her posterior,” and stating to others that he had “slept with three former Miss Americas but not with her.”
Carlson, a graduate of Stanford University, is married and has two children. In 2015, she told WORLD that Fox was the first place where she felt comfortable talking about her Christian faith as a journalist.
Ailes is one of the most powerful men in broadcast journalism, having launched Fox News in 1996 after working as a media consultant for presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush.
In a statement Wednesday, 21st Century Fox said though it had “full confidence” in both Ailes and Doocy, it takes the allegations seriously and has “commenced an internal review of the matter.”
The lawsuit insinuates others at Fox perhaps refused to fight sexual harassment for the sake of their careers. The suit states Ailes refused “to give [Carlson] the social media, public relations, and advertising support anywhere close to the support given other hosts who did not complain about discrimination and harassment.” Carlson’s attorney, Nancy Erika Smith, told ET that about 10 other women have reached out to her to complain about harassment by Ailes. So far, no one else has filed a lawsuit.
In the past, Megyn Kelly has discussed sexism in the broadcast journalism industry, saying she heard stories of executives asking young women reporters to twirl so the men could get a 360-degree view. “Executives, you need to stop doing that,” Kelly said. “It’s 2016. It’s time to use your eyes from the front.”
This is also not the first time Carlson has expressed concerns about sexism in the workplace. Following her removal from Fox & Friends, Carlson appeared on Fox News Radio and mentioned she had not been allowed to wear pants while on the air.
In 2015, she published an editorial for Huffington Post detailing instances of harassment, though there was no mention of Fox News. “Too often the narrative about sexual harassment is that women bring it on themselves by the way they dress, act or look,” Carlson wrote. “People think it’s okay to refer to a professional woman as a ‘blond bimbo.’ We should refuse to tolerate this attitude when it occurs.”
Ciera Horton is a WORLD intern.