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Following the ousting of former Fox CEO Roger Ailes amid allegations that he sexually harassed former network anchor Gretchen Carlson, The New York Times reported that a culture of sexual harassment and intimidation in Fox News may extend beyond Ailes. According to the Times, interviews with current and former Fox News employees revealed “instances of harassment and intimidation that went beyond Mr. Ailes and suggested a broader problem in the workplace.”
On July 21, Fox News’ parent company announced that Ailes would be resigning his position at Fox News but would receive $60 million and continue to work “as a consultant” with 21st Century Fox. Ailes’ ousting from the company follows a sexual harassment lawsuit filed against him by former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson. According to The Washington Post, 25 women have come forward to make similar harassment claims against Ailes.
The New York Times reported on July 23 that Fox News may have “a broader problem in the workplace,” that extends beyond Ailes after at least “a dozen women” told the Times that “they had experienced some form of sexual harassment or intimidation at Fox News or the Fox Business Network, and half a dozen more who said they had witnessed it. Two of them cited Mr. Ailes and the rest cited other supervisors.” From the Times’ report:
The investigation by Fox News’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, focused narrowly on Mr. Ailes. But in interviews with The New York Times, current and former employees described instances of harassment and intimidation that went beyond Mr. Ailes and suggested a broader problem in the workplace.
The Times spoke with about a dozen women who said they had experienced some form of sexual harassment or intimidation at Fox News or the Fox Business Network, and half a dozen more who said they had witnessed it. Two of them cited Mr. Ailes and the rest cited other supervisors. With the exception of Ms. Bakhtiar, they all spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing embarrassment and fear of retribution. Most continue to work in television and worry that speaking out could damage their careers.
They told of strikingly similar experiences at Fox News. Several said that inappropriate comments about a woman’s appearance and sex life were frequent. Managers tried to set up their employees on dates with superiors.
The women interviewed by The Times described similarly troubling experiences at Fox News and the Fox Business Network, a sprawling operation with about 2,000 employees on several floors of News Corporation’s headquarters on Sixth Avenue in Manhattan.
The networks were run with an iron fist by Mr. Ailes, the founding chairman and a former Republican strategist, who established the channels as a lucrative profit center and an influential voice in conservative politics.
It is difficult to know exactly how much Mr. Ailes set the tone. The investigation into his conduct revealed findings troubling enough to compel 21st Century Fox executives to move quickly and arrange his exit. Beyond inappropriate language, Mr. Ailes was also accused by employees of kissing and intimate physical contact, according to three people briefed on the investigation, and of making propositions that included quid pro quo arrangements.
Female staff members told of problems with other supervisors as well. One current employee said that she was with a male supervisor in a closed-door, one-on-one meeting in 2009 when she asked to work on an assignment. He turned to her and said, “Sure,” then conditioned it on oral sex. The woman said she laughed it off, thinking that she would face retaliation and be demoted if she told him that the comment was inappropriate.
Following a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson against former Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes, 25 women have come forward to make claims of similar harassment against Ailes, according to a July 22 report from The Washington Post.
The Washington Post highlighted the “locker room” mentality at Fox News, alongside new allegations in a July 22 article which reports there are now 25 women accusing Ailes of misconduct and harassment, dating back decades:
News of Carlson’s firing, and the lawsuit she filed shortly thereafter, have now prompted 25 women to come forward with what they describe as similar harassment claims against Ailes that stretch across five decades back to his days in the 1960s as a young television producer, according to Carlson’s attorney, Nancy Erika Smith.
Interviews with four of those women portray the 76-year-old television powerhouse as a man who could be routinely crude and inappropriate, ogling young women, commenting about their breasts and legs, and fostering a macho, insensitive culture. Among those who agreed to interviews is a 2002 Fox intern who spoke for the first time about her accusation that Ailes grabbed her buttocks and repeatedly propositioned her.
The signals sent by Ailes were quickly picked up by the employees, the former staffer said. Some women began showing up to news meetings in short skirts and blouses that showed their cleavage.
“It became common knowledge that women did not want to be alone with him,” the former staffer said. “They would bring other men with them when they had to meet him. It became a locker room, towel-snapping environment. He would say things like, ‘She’s really got the goods’ and ‘look at the t--s on that one.’ ”
Sometimes, the former staffer said, Ailes made “jokes that he liked having women on their knees. The tone he set went through the organization.”
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The Guardian highlighted the long and widespread sexism and misogyny of Fox News following the reported firing of Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, amid charges of sexual harassment made by former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson.
On July 19 it was reported that Ailes was given until August 1 to resign or be fired. This ultimatum came as a result of a lawsuit filed by Carlson alleging sexual harassment against Ailes. Following the announcement of the lawsuit numerous other women have come forward with allegations of harassment by Ailes, including current Fox host Megyn Kelly.
The Guardian’s Jessica Valenti highlighted Fox News’ history of sexist policy, including the no-pants policy for women and the repeated misogynistic rhetoric. And while removing Ailes is a step forward, Valenti explained that “removing one lascivious man can’t turn around the mess of misogyny that is Fox News.” From The Guardian:
But removing one lascivious man can’t turn around the mess of misogyny that is Fox News. This is a network that bans its female on-air talent from wearing pants, where a host characterized a military operation against Isis led by a woman as “boobs on the ground” and the ethos of the coverage is shockingly antagonistic to women’s rights.
There was the time, for example, that Fox contributor Erik Erickson said that men should be “dominant” over women in families. Or when an all-male panel bemoaned the rise of female breadwinners in the United States. Or when a host wondered if there was something about the female brain that was a “deterrent” to being a business executive. Or, my personal favorite, when Andrea Tantaros suggested that a female high school teacher who sexually abused a student did so because of … feminism.
Oh, and these are just incidents from one year at the network.
I have no doubt that the leadership of a man who may have told a woman “you might have to give a blowjob every once in a while” for him to help with her career would impact the tone of coverage on women at Fox News. But the disparagement of women at Fox, whether its employees or its viewers, isn’t just about Ailes. So long as the network is a mouthpiece for the right, it will continue to reflect outdated notions about women’s roles.
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Media Matters' Brock: Fox News "Undisputed Champion Of Sexism," No Surprise It "Starts At The Top"
Ailes, who has led the conservative network since its inception, has been under fire since July 6, when Gretchen Carlson filed a lawsuit against him alleging sexual harassment and retaliation. As other women have come forward to levy similar accusations against Ailes, the network’s hosts and anchors -- along with Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump -- have rallied around him.
But the Murdochs have taken the charges more seriously, hiring the law firm Paul, Weiss to conduct an investigation of the allegations. According to Sherman, the investigation has expanded to cover Ailes’ “controversial management style,” and based on its initial findings the Murdochs have decided that "Ailes needs to go," with the only question being the timing. From New York:
Roger Ailes's tenure as the head of Fox News may be coming to an end. Rupert Murdoch and sons Lachlan and James — co-chairmen and CEO, respectively, of parent company 21st Century Fox — have settled on removing the 76-year-old executive, say two sources briefed on a sexual harassment investigation of Ailes being conducted by New York law firm Paul, Weiss. After reviewing the initial findings of the probe, James Murdoch is said to be arguing that Ailes should be presented with a choice this week to resign or face being fired. Lachlan is more aligned with their father, who thinks that no action should be taken until after the GOP convention this week. Another source confirms that all three are in agreement that Ailes needs to go.
While Gretchen Carlson’s sexual harassment lawsuit against Ailes sparked the investigation, sources say it has expanded into a wide-ranging inquiry into Ailes’s controversial management style. The interviews are now being conducted at Paul, Weiss’s midtown offices because of concerns that the Fox offices could be bugged, sources say. The lawyers are seeking to interview former female employees of Fox News in addition to current staff. They are also looking into the appropriateness of Ailes’s pressuring employees to speak out on his behalf, against his accusers.
In response to the news, Media Matters chairman David Brock released the following statement:
Fox News has been the undisputed champion of sexism and misogyny in the media and as the head of Fox News, it's not shocking that this culture of sexism -- on and off the air -- starts at the top with Roger Ailes. If this report is accurate, there is a special irony in 21st Century Fox preparing to remove Ailes as the Republican National Convention gets ready to nominate known misogynist Donald Trump, the candidate that Fox News created.
UPDATE: 21st Century Fox has released a statement that does not deny Sherman's report.
BREAKING: 21st Century Fox statement about Ailes: "This matter is not yet resolved and the review is not concluded"
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) July 18, 2016
The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple highlighted how Fox News host Bill O’Reilly and chairman and CEO Roger Ailes have defended each other during scandals, with O’Reilly defending Ailes against sexual harassment allegations by former Fox host Gretchen Carlson.
In 2015, Media Matters reported on numerous inconsistent and false stories told by O’Reilly, including his claim that he witnessed a “firefight” in El Salvador and that he heard a shotgun blast that killed a figure in the investigation into the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Veteran war reporters asserted that his misleading reports that he covered a riot where “many were killed” during the 1982 Falklands War violated “Journalism 101.” O’Reilly responded to these allegations by claiming that Fox News was under attack for political reasons.
In a July 13 appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers, O’Reilly called Ailes “a target” and called Carlson’s lawsuit -- which alleged that Ailes suggested that Carlson have a “sexual relationship” with him and made “frequent sexually-charged comments” -- a “frivolous lawsuit.”
Wemple explained that Ailes similarly defended O’Reilly against allegations that he “either embellished or told falsehoods or outright lied about various reporting exploits” uncovered by Media Matters and Mother Jones. As O’Reilly’s past statements were being scrutinized, Ailes issued a statement that he “and all senior management are in full support of Bill O’Reilly”:
[O’Reilly] was saddened by the misfortune of the true victim here: “I’ve worked for Roger Ailes for 20 years. Best boss I’ve ever had. Straight shooter. Always honest with me. And I believe that over the years — he’s been in the business for 50 years — 95 percent of the people who have worked for Roger Ailes would say exactly the same thing I just told you,” said O’Reilly, leaving unanswered just what that other 5 percent might say. “In this country, every famous, powerful or wealthy person is a target. You’re a target,” he said to Meyers. “I’m a target. Anytime somebody could come out and sue us, attack us, go to the press or anything like that. Until America — and that’s a deplorable situation….adopts the English system of civil law whereby if you file a frivolous lawsuit and you lose, the judge has a right to make you pay all court costs. Until we adopt that very fair proposition, we’re going to have this out-of-control tabloid society that is tremendously destructive. I stand behind Roger 100 percent.”
It was just last year that O’Reilly’s own career appeared in doubt, as outlets like Mother Jones (disclosure: the wife of the Erik Wemple Blog works there as a staff writer) and Media Matters, among others, documented how O’Reilly had either embellished or told falsehoods or outright lied about various reporting exploits from his extensive career in journalism. The King of Cable News, it turned out, had a knack for placing himself closer to the action than his peers and colleagues recollected. The discrepancies were substantive, serial and damaging.
Not within Fox News, however. Whereas other network bosses might have fired up an internal investigation and declared that we take these allegations seriously, Ailes plied a different course. “Fox News Chairman & CEO Roger Ailes and all senior management are in full support of Bill O’Reilly,” asserted a statement from the network. Behind such defiance — not to mention angry and absurd denials by O’Reilly himself — the network waited out the siege. Media reporters eventually moved on to other topics. O’Reilly stayed in his seat, thanks to Ailes.
Now, on late-night television, he returns the favor. This is loyalty, Fox News style.
Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump defended Fox News CEO Roger Ailes against allegations that he sexually harassed multiple women and fired former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson in retaliation for denying his sexual advances.
Former Fox anchor Gretchen Carlson filed a lawsuit against Ailes, alleging he fired Carlson “after she rebuffed Mr. Ailes’ sexual advances” and challenged “what she felt was unequal treatment of her in the newsroom by some of her male colleagues.” Several other women have come forward with complaints or contacted Carlson’s law firm to report similar experiences of mistreatment. Multiple reporters have detailed Ailes’ longstanding track-record of sexism and allegations of sexual harassment against him, including his obsession with displaying female anchors’ legs on Fox programs, and numerous sexist remarks to employees.
Trump also has a reported history of degrading and inappropriate behavior toward women including “unwelcome romantic advances, unending commentary on the female form, a shrewd reliance on ambitious women, and unsettling workplace conduct.”
In a July 14 article, Washington Examiner reported that the presumptive nominee believed allegations against Ailes were “unfounded ... totally unfounded.” From the Washington Examiner’s report:
Republican nominee Donald Trump is defending his friend Fox News CEO Roger Ailes from accusations that he sexually harassed female employees.
In an interview Thursday with the Washington Examiner, Trump said he doesn't believe the allegations recently leveled against the 76-year-old Fox News chief executive.
"I think they are unfounded just based on what I've read," said Trump. "Totally unfounded, based on what I read."
Former Fox anchor Gretchen Carlson last week announced her lawsuit against Ailes, which alleged that he declined to renew her contract after she complained of unwanted sexual advances from Ailes, and also alleged sexist behavior from some of her other male colleagues.
One Of Ailes’ Accusers Reportedly Made Claim To LA Weekly In 1990s, Which Received No Clear Denial From Ailes
The Chicago Reader’s Michael Miner reported that one of the women alleging Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes sexually harassed her “tried to tell the world” about her harassment “decades ago” and that Ailes didn’t “clear[ly] den[y]” the allegation at the time.
On July 6, former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson filed a “sexual harassment/retaliation” lawsuit against Ailes, alleging that he 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.” Since Carlson filed her lawsuit, New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman reported six more women have come forward alleging Ailes harassed them. Ailes’ lawyer called the women’s allegations “all 30 to 50 years old” and “false.”
In a July 14 article, Miner wrote that he has personally known one of the women who spoke to New York magazine since childhood, and that she told him "about her encounter with Roger Ailes decades ago and—more to the point—she tried to tell the world too.” Miner claimed that the woman, using the pseudonym “Susan,” tried to tell the newspaper LA Weekly about her incident in 1992, and that according to the editor of the Weekly, Ailes “‘didn't really make any clear denial’” when asked about the charge, but instead “‘was fumbling around in self-pity.’” From Miner’s article:
New York magazine interviewed some of the women who'd contacted Carlson's lawyer, and last weekend posted "Six More Women Allege That Roger Ailes Sexually Harassed Them." One of these women was "Susan."
So I write here to put something on the record: I've known Susan, not her real name, since we were both children. She did not just come out of the woodwork. She told me about her encounter with Roger Ailes decades ago and—more to the point—she tried to tell the world too.
In 1988 she saw Ailes rise to national prominence as the media svengali in Bush's come-from-behind victory over Michael Dukakis, the artisan of negativity chiefly responsible for Bush's devastating "revolving door" TV attack ad. Four years later Bush ran for reelection, and Susan expected more of the same from Ailes. (Ultimately, he had no formal role in Bush's 1992 campaign.) Susan typed up an account of the Mike Douglas Show encounter and sent it to the primary alternative newspaper in what was by then her home town, LA Weekly. "Roger, You Made Me a Democrat," she called her story, and went on to say that, pre-Ailes, she'd been a "Goldwater Girl," her mother a Republican committeewoman.
The story she submitted in 1992 was a more detailed version of the account just published by New York Magazine. Jay Levin, the editor of LA Weekly at the time, remembers it. Levin assigned a staff writer, Ron Curran, to call Ailes. "We had expected the usual 'She’s lying and I will sue you,'" says Levin; "Instead, Curran said he got a kind of mumbling self-pity from Ailes. So I decided I needed to hear him myself."
Levin got the same. "To the best of my memory," he says, "Ailes repeated something about being in a bad place in his past life. He didn't make any threats and he didn't really make any clear denial. He was fumbling around in self-pity. I said, 'OK, to be clear, are you denying this or not? Are you saying she's a liar? I don't hear a clear denial.' He said, weakly, 'Yes, I'm denying it,' and he wanted to know what we were going to do."
Levin said he didn't know, and in the end LA Weekly didn't publish Susan's account—for reasons I understand. This was a story requiring strong corroboration, and Levin had no other names. Furthermore, Ailes was in the east, and following up would have meant hiring a reporter there to spend weeks tracking down women who'd worked for him. There was the obvious risk of a lawsuit. And Ailes wasn't then who he is now—one of the most powerful men in American media. "Going after him," says Levin, "would be a misallocation of resources."
When I read about Carlson suing Ailes, I sent Susan an e-mail that said, "Isn't this your guy?" Susan told me she'd already called Carlson's lawyers.
NY Times Explains How Roger Ailes Is Keeping Pervasive Sexual Harassment Claims Secret, Out Of The Justice System And Into A Private, Pro-Corporate Court
The New York Times explained that Gretchen Carlson’s Fox News contract -- which may bar the former network anchor from taking her sexual harassment lawsuit against Fox News CEO Roger Ailes to any federal court -- “could significantly impede [her]chances of prevailing.”
On July 6, former Fox News host Carlson filed a lawsuit against Fox CEO Roger Ailes, alleging that he 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.” Carlson also alleged that while she was a host of Fox & Friends, her co-host Steve Doocy “engaged in a pattern of severe and pervasive mistreatment” of Carlson. Carlson has been a witness to years of sexism from her male colleagues, plenty of it directed at her. Several other women have come forward with complaints or contacted Carlson’s law firm to report similar experiences of mistreatment.
In a July 13 New York Times article, Noam Scheiber and Jessica Silver-Greenberg explained that Carlson’s “chances of prevailing” in her sexual harassment lawsuit could be significantly impeded because her Fox News employment contract requires employment disputes to be handled confidentially through arbitration, rather than in a federal court -- and “has much broader secrecy language than is common.” As the Times explained, arbitration “can obscure patterns of wrongdoing” because it is “conducted out of public view with no judge or jury.” Through arbitration clauses, employers like Ailes effectively “take away one of the few tools that workers have to fight harassment or discrimination.” The Times drew parallels between Carlson’s case and that of an American Apparel case, where a contractual arbitration agreement kept multiple sexual harassment allegations against former CEO Dov Charney “out of court” and “private,” to Charney’s legal advantage.
When Gretchen Carlson sought her day in court with a sexual harassment lawsuit against Roger Ailes, her former boss at Fox News, Mr. Ailes’s lawyers had a quick response: Move the case to arbitration.
Experts and lawyers who have studied arbitration cases say that process, if enacted, could significantly impede Ms. Carlson’s chances of prevailing.
While arbitration is normally a secretive process, a typical plaintiff involved in arbitration would at least be able to speak publicly about his or her case. But Ms. Carlson, a former anchor who was let go last month, had a contract that makes the process even more secret, stipulating that “all filings, evidence and testimony connected with the arbitration, and all relevant allegations and events leading up to the arbitration, shall be held in strict confidence.”
“The clause has much broader secrecy language than is common in arbitration,” said F. Paul Bland Jr., an arbitration expert and executive director of the advocacy group Public Justice. “This clause explicitly put in gag-order language on all facts and evidence relating to these types of allegations.”
The use of arbitration has proliferated over the last decade, as a soaring number of corporations have sought to keep employment disputes private. That is because arbitration in general is a private process, conducted out of public view with no judge or jury. By using the arbitration clauses to bar people from joining together as a group, employers, both large and small, have effectively taken away one of the few tools that workers have to fight harassment or discrimination.
In a report issued just last week, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission noted that forced arbitration “can prevent employees from learning about similar concerns shared by others in their workplace.”
Some regulators and civil rights experts also worry that arbitration clauses can obscure patterns of wrongdoing.
In one example, American Apparel required many employees to agree to resolve disputes through arbitration, and to keep most of the details of the arbitration process completely private. Many employment contracts also included a confidentiality agreement that prohibited workers from publicly sharing personal details about Dov Charney, the company’s founder and former chief executive. Those who did, the contracts stipulated, could be required to pay damages of $1 million.
Several cases in which female employees sued American Apparel and Mr. Charney for sexual harassment were pushed out of court and into arbitration, where details were kept private. (An employee who accused Mr. Charney of choking him and rubbing dirt in his face did win the right to pursue his case in court in 2013.) Mr. Charney’s board eventually let him go as chief executive in 2014.
In arbitration, the rules tilt toward businesses, employment experts say. Instead of judges, cases are decided by arbitrators who sometimes consider the companies that routinely bring them business their clients, according to interviews with arbitrators.
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