A Hotbed Of Sexual Harassment And Victim-Blaming, Fox News Fixates On The Clintons’ Private Life
Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT
After Fox News’ long summer of tawdry revelations about the culture of sexual harassment that permeates the cable outlet, and how women there who raised concerns were often maligned or penalized professionally, you’d think Fox hosts would know better than to lob hypocritical allegations about sexual harassment victim-blaming.
You’d think, but you’d be wrong.
On Monday morning, Fox & Friends hosts hovered on the topic again and again, setting aside nearly 10 minutes of TV airtime to discuss Bill Clinton’s sex life during the 1990s, and specifically to claim that Hillary Clinton doubled as some kind of victims bully.
Using that day’s New York Times piece on the same topic as a springboard, the Fox crew erroneously claimed Hillary had had a starring role in smearing women; that she’s guilty of “sliming the women who came forward,” according to Fox’s Steve Doocy. Doocy also said she “ruthlessly covered up Bill’s many affairs,” and co-host Brian Kilmeade claimed she “went aggressively after” the women involved. Kilmeade even suggested, based on the latest book from discredited Clinton fabulist Ed Klein, that Bill Clinton was still carrying out extramarital affairs in the Clinton Library.
The picture painted on Fox News was vivid: Decades ago, Hillary Clinton viciously attacked accusers in the name of protecting her husband and protecting her political future.
Despite the Times’ best effort to resuscitate the evergreen allegation against Clinton, there’s simply no evidence, as the conservative media have claimed for years, to suggest that as first lady, Clinton was at the head of some sort of heartless, uber-aggressive opposition research team that set out destroy the reputations of women associated with Bill Clinton.
The Fox pile-on, however, does represent part of a larger effort by the Trump campaign to position the Clinton marriage as a political issue for the final weeks of the campaign. Incredibly, it’s an effort led by an array of Republican men, including the Republican nominee himself, who have long histories of infidelity and sexual harassment.
Even more incredible, you know who does have a history of eagerly taking up the role of attack dog and orchestrating offenses against women who made allegations against this abusive and tasteless behavior? You know who set up opposition research teams to spy on his political opponents? Fox News founder -- and current Trump adviser -- Roger Ailes, of course.
So yes, it’s astonishing to watch Fox News hosts, who work at what’s been described as a hotbed of sexual harassment and victim-blaming, now paint Hillary Clinton as the villain.
As Ailes biographer Gabe Sherman tweeted this week:
Incredible that Giuliani is making argument about Hillary attacking Bill's accusers when Ailes smeared women who claimed harassment by Ailes
— Gabriel Sherman (@gabrielsherman) October 2, 2016
The hypocrisy runs deep, indeed. In fact, Doocy himself, who on Monday leveled allegations against Clinton, has been implicated in the Fox News sexual harassment cover-up culture.
Recall that Roger Ailes was forced to resign from Fox in July after former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against him. Subsequently, at least 25 other women detailed similar allegations against Ailes and the cable channel. One former employee even described Ailes as a “predator.” (He reportedly demanded the woman find “whores” for him.)
Carlson’s lawsuit alleged that Ailes “terminat[ed] her employment,” because she would not have a “sexual relationship with him.” It also accused Doocy of “creat[ing] a hostile work environment by regularly treating [Carlson] in a sexist and condescending way.”
Note that in the wake of the Carlson bombshell lawsuit in July, the Fox News cavalry rode to Ailes’ side, while often denouncing the accuser. Bill O’Reilly compared Carlson's allegations to a "frivolous lawsuit," and announced, "I stand behind Roger 100 percent." Greta Van Susteren suggested Carlson may have falsely accused Ailes of sexual harassment because she was “unhappy that her contract wasn’t renewed,” while Jeanine Pirro called Carlson’s allegations “absurd” and tagged Ailes a “no-nonsense guy,” adding, “I just loved him.”
Fox’s Kimberly Guilfoyle claimed that of the women she had spoken to at Fox, “Nobody believed” Carlson’s allegations, adding that Ailes “is a man who champions women.” Brit Hume wondered, “Why didn't she quit & sue instead of suing only after she got fired.”
More: Host Neil Cavuto wrote an op-ed for Business Insider defending "the character of Roger Ailes.” He called the allegations against his former boss “sick,” while Sean Hannity tweeted out this blanket denial, as he ridiculed Carlson’s lawsuit:
Brian talk to the hundreds of woman at Fox that I talked to this week both on air and off. They say it all BS https://t.co/L7JECOMMPD
— Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) July 9, 2016
Of course, just one month after the lawsuit was filed, Fox News’ parent company reached a $20 million settlement with Carlson and issued an apology regarding Ailes’ decades-long behavior. The corporate concession made a mockery of the staff-wide victim-blaming that went on at Fox News on behalf of Ailes.
In truth, Fox News’ culture of nasty accuser-blaming goes back years.
According to a 2004 sexual harassment suit filed against Fox host O’Reilly, O’Reilly allegedly threatened a former employee, saying, “If any woman ever breathed a word I’ll make her pay so dearly that she’ll wish she’d never been born,” and adding, “If you cross FOX NEWS CHANNEL, it’s not just me, it’s [FOX President] Roger Ailes who will go after you.”
The following year, after settling an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission complaint against the company, Fox News agreed not to enable workplace sexual harassment by retaliating against victims.
And it’s not just Ailes. Doocy and Kilmeade, who leveled the claims against Clinton on Monday, currently work for co-president Bill Shine, who was promoted after Ailes’ ouster. That’s the same Bill Shine who reportedly “played an integral role in the cover up” of sexual harassment claims against Ailes. According to New York’s Sherman, Shine was responsible for “rallying the women to speak out against” Ailes’ accusers. Sherman also reported that Shine played a role in the silencing and “smearing” of reporter Rudi Bakhtiar, who claimed she was fired from Fox News after complaining about sexual harassment.
Additionally, former Fox host Andrea Tantaros, in her sexual harassment lawsuit against the cable channel, claimed that when she met with Shine seeking “relief from Ailes’s sexual harassment and [Fox News publicist Irena] Briganti’s retaliatory media vendetta against her," Shine “told Tantaros that Ailes was a ‘very powerful man,’” and that Tantaros “‘needed to let this one go.’”
Gazing back two decades and focusing on the Clinton marriage, Fox’s Kilmeade this week concluded, “I sense that she knew the truth and wanted to defame the woman and the accuser.”
Lacking keen self-awareness, Kilmeade couldn’t detect the irony. But he was actually describing his former boss, Roger Ailes.