Fox News media analyst Howard Kurtz was the first reporter at the network to file a story on former Fox anchor Gretchen Carlson’s allegations that network head Roger Ailes repeatedly sexually harassed her and derailed her career after she rejected his advances. Kurtz’s story leaned heavily on Ailes’ statement denying the allegation.
Carlson's lawsuit, filed in a New Jersey civil court, also alleges that she repeatedly complained to Ailes that her colleagues on Fox & Friends (specifically co-host Steve Doocy) had created a sexist atmosphere, and he responded by dismissing her complaints and demoting her from the morning show to a daytime position.
Kurtz’s piece is headlined “Ailes denies allegations in Gretchen Carlson harassment suit as Fox News launches investigation,” and the bulk of the story takes the same tone.
Kurtz begins by citing Ailes’ denial, before establishing the facts about the allegations he’s denying in the first place.
Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes responded forcefully Wednesday night to a lawsuit filed by Gretchen Carlson after her contract was not renewed as a daytime host at the network, calling the allegations “false” and “offensive.”
Kurtz later notes, “While the lawsuit is based in part on alleged comments by Ailes in private conversations with Carlson, it provides no e-mail, texts or voice mail as evidence.”
In his statement, Ailes claims that Carlson’s contract wasn’t renewed due to her ratings. Kurtz echoes this point, writing, “In describing her success, Carlson says in the suit that her daytime show consistently ranked first in its time slot. But it is also true that she lost to CNN more often than any other Fox News program.”
Kurtz also publishes past praise that Carlson has given Ailes:
In her book “Getting Real,” published last year, Carlson called Ailes “the most accessible boss I’ve ever worked for,” and said “he saw Fox as a big family, and he cared about everything we did.” She said he had even urged her to speak occasionally about having been Miss America in 1989.
Carlson’s lawyers explained the praise in a statement released after Kurtz’s story was posted: “Ailes does not allow his employees to speak to the press or publish anything without prior approval. Gretchen was chastised for answering a question from a hometown newspaper about her favorite Minnesota State Fair food. In her book Gretchen told her story while trying to keep her job - knowing that Ailes had to approve what she said.”
Kurtz’s report is the only significant mention of the case on Fox so far, and it only appeared online. Fox & Friends, whose co-hosts are a key part of the allegations, ignored the story. By contrast, the Carlson allegations have been covered on NBC, ABC, CBS and CNN.
When Kurtz was at CNN, he criticized Fox News for underplaying coverage of a scandal involving Rupert Murdoch, who owns Fox News’ parent company. He said, “What you're signaling to viewers is there's a double standard. We're only aggressive when some other organization is in trouble. And I think that can undermine your credibility.”
In contrast, Brian Stelter, who took over from Kurtz as the host of CNN’s Reliable Sources, has shown that it is possible to cast a critical eye on one’s employer.
Stelter, while reporting on his network’s controversial hiring of former Donald Trump operative Corey Lewandowski, recently noted he was “the most controversial addition to CNN in several years” and that he had a history of “hostile” behavior toward reporters. Stelter even noted that the possible existence of non-disparagement agreements between Trump and Lewandowski raised “ethical questions” about CNN’s decision making.