The Daily Beast highlighted allegations from several former Fox employees who described experiences of sexual harassment by Fox News CEO Roger Ailes in light of a recent lawsuit by former Fox host Gretchen Carlson.
On July 6, Carlson, former host of Fox News’ The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson, filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Ailes, alleging that he had retaliated against her for refusing to have “a sexual relationship with him” by “ostracizing, marginalizing, and shunning her,” and ultimately “terminating her employment.” CNN reported that 10 other women have contacted Carlson’s lawyer “because they say they also have stories to share about treatment by Roger Ailes.”
A July 7 article in The Daily Beast reported that “several women who formerly worked at [Fox] told The Daily Beast of similar encounters with” Ailes. The five women spoke “on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation by Ailes and Fox News”:
[Gretchen Carlson’s attorney Nancy Erika] Smith, for her part, said Carlson’s lawsuit has opened the floodgates of female ex-Fox News employees who say that Ailes harassed them as well.
Speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation by Ailes and Fox News, several women who formerly worked at the network told The Daily Beast of similar encounters with the defendant.
“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’ 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.”
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.
“And I think he could tell I was offended by the questions. And he said, ‘I know I’m not supposed to ask this—HR keeps telling me I can’t ask that because you can sue me because it’s illegal, but I don’t care. I’m [over 70] years old, if you wanna sue me, sue me.’”
Still, interviews on Wednesday with former Fox News employees suggested that Ailes has presided over a corporate culture that values and even demands female pulchritude—or at least Ailes’s blonde ideal of same—over other professional qualities. According to a former staffer, executive assistant-turned-Fox News vice president of programming Suzanne Scott enforces with the wardrobe and makeup departments an aesthetic that features skimpy dresses, high-heeled open-toed shoes, and big hair for the channel’s on-air women.
“A lot of the stuff in her [Carlson’s] suit rings very true to me,” said this person, who worked for almost a decade at the network and, like other Fox insiders quoted in this story, spoke on the condition of anonymity. “The stuff about showing of the legs—that was not even a secret—that was open company policy.
Meanwhile, a fifth former Fox News employee told The Daily Beast that Carlson’s allegations seem credible because Ailes runs Fox News “like his personal fiefdom” and has fostered a culture that is not only sexist but menacing, something akin to a sexual North Korea.