The latest gender discrimination and retaliation lawsuit brought by a Fox News contributor shows that the network and its parent company, 21st Century Fox, never sought to fix the toxic misogyny that the network has fostered, contributing to a culture of sexual misconduct by the men in power.
On April 3, Fox News contributor Julie Roginsky filed a lawsuit against Fox News, former CEO Roger Ailes, and current co-President Bill Shine alleging that Ailes and the network “discriminated against Roginsky on the basis of her gender” and “retaliated” against her “when she refused to have a sexual relationship with Ailes.”
According to the complaint:
Fox News and Ailes discriminated against Roginsky on the basis of her gender by making her deserved promotion to a regular spot hosting “The Five” contingent upon having a sexual relationship with Ailes. Fox News and Ailes thereafter retaliated against Plaintiff when she refused to have a sexual relationship with Ailes. Shine aided and abetted the discrimination and retaliation by Fox News and Ailes by failing to take reasonable measures to protect Roginsky from, and condoning, the unlawful conduct. Fox News and Shine further retaliated against Plaintiff by refusing to give her the promised permanent hosting position for which she was well-qualified. Defendants Fox News and Shine also retaliated against Plaintiff because she refused to publicly disparage Gretchen Carlson when Carlson filed sexual harassment claims against Ailes in July 2016.
In the lawsuit, Roginsky also said that no one, including those who knew about the alleged harassment, “advised Roginsky to contact attorneys at the Paul Weiss law firm who were reportedly investigating Ailes' pattern of sexual harassment at Fox News. Nor did anyone at Paul Weiss ever contact Roginsky.” Additionally, “Fox News never investigated Roginsky’s complaints.”
The internal investigation regarding Ailes, led by the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, was launched after former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson filed a sexual harassment suit against the network leader in July 2016, which eventually forced Ailes to leave the network. Since Carlson filed her lawsuit, at least 20 women have come forward saying Ailes had harassed them, including former Fox host Megyn Kelly.
But questions remained about the investigation’s independence and efficacy. As The New York Times reported, “The firm was retained by 21st Century Fox not only to investigate but also to provide legal advice. (The rarer true independent review would preclude legal advice.)” Additionally, Vanity Fair found that the firm “was apparently never ordered to scour the company’s hard drives for all evidence of sexual harassment or bawdy culture,” and, “In some ways, according to one person familiar with the process, the Paul, Weiss investigation simply got a revenue machine back on track.”
Fox News’ toxic misogyny is readily apparent on air, but behind the scenes, women at Fox face rampant harassment. A New York Times investigation found that Fox and host Bill O’Reilly have settled lawsuits totaling $13 million with five women who claimed that O’Reilly harassed them. A separate Times piece reported that current and former Fox employees described “instances of harassment and intimidation that went beyond Mr. Ailes and suggested a broader problem in the workplace.” And top Fox News executives reportedly knew about the pattern and chose to cover it up.
Roginsky’s allegations can put to rest any question regarding whether Fox News cared about cleaning up its pattern of gender discrimination and sexual harassment. It didn’t.