New York's Gabriel Sherman: Sexual Harassment “Was Encouraged And Protected” At Fox News Under Roger Ailes

From the July 26 edition of NPR's Fresh Air

Video file

TERRY GROSS (HOST): So some of where we are now in terms of how many women have come forward alleging they were sexually harassed by Ailes, or by somebody else, at Fox News. And I should say we are recording this at 9:00 in the morning and I am not sure if that number is going to change by the end of the day. 

GABRIEL SHERMAN: Well Terry, where we are now, since Gretchen Carlson filed her really landmark lawsuit on July 6th is that 25 women have come forward to the outside law firm Paul, Weiss that was hired by 21st Century Fox to investigate these sexual harassment allegations. By my reporting more than 25 women have come forward to allege their experiences of harassment at Fox. And this number could be growing by the day. The lawyers are hearing from women and I think there is a fear inside the company that this could snowball into -- and I mean it's already a shocking scandal -- but that dozens of more women could come forward, and then you really have to start to question did Roger Ailes preside over a culture that was not only of sexual harassment but almost built to encourage it? 

GROSS: How many women have you spoken with about their charges?

SHERMAN: Well I've spoken with more than 15 women who have had experiences of sexual harassment and instances of unwanted sexual advances by Roger Ailes over the years and you know I just want to step back for a second, Terry, because what's so in a sense sad about this story is that when it broke in July, on July 6th with Gretchen Carlson's lawsuit, I wasn't surprised because in my biography of Roger Ailes that was published in 2014, I detailed multiple instances of sexual harassment. I quoted a very brave woman named Randy Harrison, on the record who said that when she was a young producer at NBC in the 1980s, Roger Ailes said that he would give her a raise of $100 a week in exchange for sex whenever he wanted. And this was shocking, and this was all published back in 2014, and it didn't quite make the waves that I thought it might. And so this story thatexploded into a national scandal -- sometimes I guess it just takes the right moment for the public to pay attention.But I again, over the years I've interviewed more than 20 women who have had these types of experiences with Ailes. And again that to me it just seems like the tip of the iceberg. 

GROSS:I want to emphasize here that Roger Ailes has denied the allegations of sexual harassment. 

SHERMAN: Yes, and he's, through his lawyers, has have denied it.But what I find so shocking is that last week, when I reporting on the first Fox news female employee besides Gretchen Carlson to speak out on the record about her experienceof sexual harassment, moments after I contacted her, the man she accuses of harassing her, she received an intimidating phone call -- her attorney received an intimidating phone call from Roger Ailes' attorney reminding her that if she talked to the press she would be violating her non-disclosure agreement that she signed as a condition of her leaving the company in the wake of these sexual harassment allegations.And so this culture of intimidation, to me that does not strike me as a man that knows he's innocent. It strikes me as a man, that is again attempting to preserve this wall of silence he's built around himself.

GROSS: Give us a sense of the allegations of the women who have worked at Fox News with Roger Ailes. 

SHERMAN: Well Terry, I think the most important thing to stress is that this is not about-- while it is about Roger Ailes, its not about Roger Ailes -- it's about a culture. A television news network that played an undeniable role in reshaping American politics over the last 20 years, and it was a culture where this type of behavior was encouraged and protected. The allegations are that women routinely had to sleep with or be propositioned by their manager, in many cases Roger Ailesbut I reported on another manager who did this in exchange for promotions.And so this is a culture where women felt pressured to participate in sexual activity with theirsuperiors if they wanted to advance inside the company. And it was so -- what was shocking to me was not that it occurred but that it was so explicit, that there was no subtext, there was no subtlely to it.


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