A new lawsuit against Fox News, filed by a booking producer, highlights the network’s misogynistic and hostile work environment and details how it affects all of its employees, including some of its biggest names. The lawsuit demonstrates that Fox’s toxic culture — which extends back to when former chair and CEO Roger Ailes started the network — still persists over 25 years later.
On March 20, Abby Grossberg sued Fox Corp., Fox News Network, and an array of individual employees for numerous alleged violations related to pay equality, gender discrimination, religious discrimination, and protections against retaliation. During her employment at Fox, Grossberg first worked on Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo as a senior booking producer and then worked on Tucker Carlson Tonight.
In that time, Grossberg says she experienced or witnessed pay discrimination, misogynistic group discussions and displays by other employees, antisemitic remarks about herself and other Jewish colleagues, and harassment of female employees by higher-ups of Fox News. Grossberg approached human resources about this culture but “no meaningful investigation ... has occurred.” After insisting that her “work environment will remain harassment-free,” Fox eventually filed a preemptive retaliatory lawsuit, which the network has since pulled, and put her on administrative leave.
As Media Matters previously documented, misogyny has been deeply ingrained in the network’s culture since its inception. Over the years, employees have filed dozens of sexual harassment complaints against Fox Corp. and Fox News Network, including reporting unwanted sexual advances from Ailes. There were also reports of other employees, including current hosts, being sexist and condescending.
The network is currently embroiled in multiple other lawsuits, including a billion dollar defamation suit by Dominion Voting Systems for spreading lies about the company and the 2020 election. Fox’s Maria Bartiromo is highlighted throughout Dominion’s lawsuit because she pushed — and hosted guests who pushed — baseless claims about the company’s involvement in nonexistent election fraud without noting that these allegations were unsubstantiated. Fox also faces a $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit from Smartmatic over similar lies.
Here are a few examples from Grossberg’s lawsuit detailing Fox’s toxic culture:
Lawsuit: Maria Bartiromo had to navigate a misogynistic, sexist workplace
- Bartiromo’s staff allegedly have described her as “menopausal” and “hysterical.”
- David Clark, Fox’s senior vice president of weekend news and programming, was allegedly “out to sabotage” Bartiromo and often described her as “a ‘diva’ who was ‘difficult’ and ‘demanding’ and who needed to be ‘controlled.’”
- According to the lawsuit, Fox News director called Bartiromo “a crazy bitch” behind her back and insinuated that a woman’s place is at home rather than at work.
- Ralph Giordano, Fox Business’ vice president of news coverage, allegedly described Bartiromo as “a ‘very difficult talent’ whom he did ‘not like at all’ because Ms. Bartiromo was ‘disgusting and difficult to manage.’” He also said that “everyone hated” Bartiromo.
- During a meeting with Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) in 2021, an executive producer for Fox anchor Bret Baier allegedly told McCarthy that Bartiromo was “not as credible as male anchors" and that his "decision to appear on SMFMB [her show] was not a smart move politically.”
- Jerry Andrews, Fox’s senior executive producer of weekend news, allegedly insulted both Bartiromo and another host, Jeanine Pirro, saying they were “crazy” and that he didn’t want either of them joining a call with other Fox News producers.
- Both Giordano and Andrews wanted Grossberg to “report back” to them about Bartiromo, with Andrews asking her to “spy” on Bartiromo for “anything ‘crazy’ that she said,” according to the lawsuit.
Lawsuit: Grossberg's skills were dismissed, she experienced misogynistic remarks from colleagues and leadership, and she was threatened with career setbacks for speaking out
- When Grossberg expressed interest in filling a vacant position for senior producer on Sunday Morning Futures, she was allegedly promptly told that the position really needed to be filled by a man.
- Grossberg was consistently overwhelmed at Sunday Morning Futures and repeatedly asked for more support staff to help with time-consuming logistical tasks. After a job posting for an executive producer was listed (instead of a production assistant, as she and Bartiromo had expected), Grossberg asked why she was overlooked for the position since she had already been doing the tasks for that job without a title. She was allegedly met with an attack instead, with Lauren Petterson, president of Fox Business, saying, “Everyone hates you, anytime your name comes up awful, disgusting and horrible things are said about you.”
- Previously, Giordano allegedly told Grossberg that she “didn’t understand the half of” being an executive producer because it “requires a lot.”
- Andrews allegedly “rudely and incorrectly” blamed Grossberg “for an error involving a guest.” Bartiromo stood up in her defense and addressed the “elephant in the room,” saying that they “never hear from you unless you want to nitpick.”
- On Tucker Carlson’s show, Grossberg expressed concern with an interview Carlson planned to do with “self-proclaimed ‘misogynist’” Andrew Tate, saying there might be “blowback” from women’s groups and a woman guest should be brought on to “balance the segment.” Producers Alexander McCaskill and Justin Wells allegedly ignored these suggestions and “seemed annoyed” that “she was expressing her opinion” about “programming that may offend women.”
- On Grossberg’s first day working at Tucker Carlson Tonight, she allegedly was greeted by multiple blown-up photographs on her computer and throughout the office of former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) in a “plunging bathing suit revealing her cleavage,” with the “joke” being that “Pelosi looked terrible in a bathing suit." The next day, Wells called Grossberg into his office and asked, “Is Maria Bartiromo fucking Kevin McCarthy?”
- In October 2022, Michigan gubernatorial candidate Tudor Dixon was scheduled to appear as a guest on Tucker Carlson Tonight to discuss her campaign. Before her arrival, an alleged “crass and sexist discussion” began in the newsroom on whether Dixon or her opponent, Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, was “hotter and more fuckable.” According to Grossberg’s complaint, the show’s staff would regularly have misogynistic group discussions, where any woman, whether a Republican or a colleague at Fox, could become the target of such demeaning comments.
- When Rep. Kathryn Cammack (R-FL) appeared on TV while speaking on the House floor in January, McCaskill allegedly mocked her weight and appearance, calling her “fat like Kelly Clarkson.” Another male employee added that “she only became a Congresswoman because she fucked the person who had the job before her.”
- Wells and McCaskill allegedly often remarked that Lexi Ciccone, a Tucker Carlson Tonight booker who worked under Grossberg, should “use her sex appeal to the TCT team’s advantage, such as by 'sleep[ing] with Elon Musk to get [an] interview' and that she could be his 'next wife.'”
- After preparing to return from leave for her emotional and mental health, Grossberg allegedly met with Fox’s human resources and she received a memo “filled with half-truths.” She was warned that “immediate improvement is required” to continue her employment.
- Wells and McCaskill, who were present in the meeting, allegedly “berated and attacked” Grossberg, admitting to engaging in “inappropriate and unprofessional conduct” toward her while claiming their behavior was “out of frustration at Ms. Grossberg being ‘inept’ and acting like a ‘secretary.’” When Grossberg tried to defend herself from their verbal attacks, Wells threatened Grossberg with retaliation, saying, “I don’t think being combative… is going to help anyone. I don’t think it’s going to help you do what you want to do either in this role or with your career.”