Gender

Issues ››› Gender
  • The Women’s March organized a protest at the NRA’s headquarters

    Blog ››› ››› MILES LE & DAYANITA RAMESH


    Miles Le / Media Matters

    The Women’s March group gathered at the headquarters of the National Rifle Association (NRA) in Fairfax, VA on July 14 to denounce the organization’s recent incendiary, hateful video and its silence around the death of Philando Castile. Media Matters was there and spoke to activists and protesters.

    Here's what they had to say about the NRA, gun violence, and the media:

  • Fox executives will only protect women when the public is watching

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Another day, another report of workplace sexual harassment perpetrated by a 21st Century Fox employee. Horrifyingly, this will probably keep happening -- because Fox has proven time and again that it only takes measures to protect women when others are watching.

    Fox Business host Charles Payne has been suspended from the network after a frequent Fox guest reported that Payne had coerced her into a years-long relationship “under threat of reprisals.” The Los Angeles Times reported on July 6 that the Fox guest (whom the Times did not identify) reported sexual misconduct to Fox’s law firm in June, stating that “she believed she was eventually blackballed from the network after she ended the affair in 2015 and tried to report Payne to top executives at Fox News.” HuffPost reported that the woman who came forward is political analyst Scottie Nell Hughes, and that Hughes believes that not only did Payne retaliate against her for ending the relationship, but that then-Fox News and Fox Business co-President Bill Shine and the network itself were involved. (Payne is denying the report.) 

    Payne’s suspension was announced one year to the day after former Fox News personality Gretchen Carlson filed a lawsuit against former Fox chief Roger Ailes, who died in May, for serial sexual harassment. At least 25 women came forward to report similar harassment by Ailes in the aftermath of the Carlson lawsuit, citing incidents that spanned decades. Carlson’s lawsuit helped to expose a hostile work culture of silence and harassment at 21st Century Fox that has undoubtedly persisted since Ailes was forced out.

    In the year since Ailes resigned, Fox fired former host Bill O’Reilly (and paid him tens of millions on the way out) after news broke that five women had reported him for sexual harassment. On the same day that O’Reilly’s firing was announced, Fox News co-host Greg Gutfeld sexually harassed his fellow co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle on-air. Soon after, Ailes’ “right-hand man” Bill Shine was fired from his top executive spot at Fox amid reports that he had attempted to silence and retaliate against women who came forward to report harassment at the network.

    In March, former Fox News contributor Tamara Holder reached a legal settlement with 21st Century Fox after she reported sexual assault by Fox News Latino executive Francisco Cortes at company headquarters in 2015. The company subsequently fired Cortes. Just days ago, Fox Sports fired Jamie Horowitz, its head of sports programming, amid an investigation into sexual harassment reports.

    The common thread in this series of high-profile firings is that they were exactly that -- high-profile. Fox’s response to a systematic, decades-long workplace culture problem that transcends time, a single perpetrator, a single survivor, or any sort of isolating detail, has been to do the absolute bare minimum to make immediate criticism go away.

    21st Century Fox has proven that it only cares about its women employees when the public -- or its bottom line -- forces the issue. It will continue to treat each report of workplace harassment as a singular incident, offering a response that categorically hinges on the number of bad headlines, threats of advertiser boycotts, dollar amounts of lawsuits, or persistence of public outcry a story has garnered.

    O’Reilly was fired amid an activist-driven advertiser boycott, as hundreds of sexual harassment survivors publicly asked Fox to do better. The network has fired Cortes and Horowitz and suspended Payne as it faces intense scrutiny from British regulators who are weighing whether to approve its bid to acquire the Sky PLC television company (and thus allow Fox to expand its toxic workplace culture).

    Shine was replaced by two longtime Fox executives from the Ailes era, one of whom, Suzanne Scott, was reportedly also involved in silencing, ignoring, and retaliating against women who reported harassment at the network. And it took Fox nearly a year to fire Shine, even after former Fox News personality Andrea Tantaros named him in a sexual harassment lawsuit last August; it took more pressure from advertisers and the public before Fox would start to hold Shine accountable.

    To add insult to injury, Fox’s shallow attempt to address systemic culture issues in its office appears to have been a sham. After Carlson filed her lawsuit, Fox retained the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison to lead an internal investigation into the claims. The agreement between Fox and the law firm allowed for both an investigation and for the firm to give “legal advice” to the company, leading some to doubt its true independence. And after the Carlson lawsuit was settled in September, Vanity Fair reported that the so-called investigation “never officially expanded to examine the broader culture of Fox News” but instead “simply got a revenue machine back on track.”

    Paul, Weiss was also the law firm Fox retained in April to investigate at least one report of sexual harassment against O’Reilly. And Paul, Weiss is where Hughes went last month with her account of Payne’s misconduct -- around the same time Fox renewed Payne’s contract for multiple years. HuffPost reported the firm will lead another internal investigation into Hughes’ report. 

    If past behavior is any indication, this investigation, too, will end with some public lip service until the news cycle passes, maybe a high-profile firing, and little concrete action to actually protect the women who work at Fox. Have executives and on-air personalities begun to treat women and people of color with more respect yet? The results are inconclusive.

    Here’s what is clear: Fox seems hellbent on only doing what is asked of them and nothing more. So don’t stop asking.

  • Another Fox host suspended after report of sexual harassment

    Fox Business spokesperson says host Charles Payne has been suspended while "matter is being thoroughly investigated"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Fox Business host Charles Payne has been suspended from the network amid reports of sexual harassment by a former political analyst.

    According to Variety, a “Fox Business spokesperson said Payne had been ‘suspended pending further investigation’” following a Los Angeles Times report that Payne had a three-year extramarital relationship with a woman who says she was coerced into the relationship "under threat of reprisals." The Times reports the woman “believed she was eventually blackballed from the network after she ended the affair in 2015 and tried to report Payne to top executives at Fox News.” These new developments come as Fox Business’ parent company, 21st Century Fox, faces heavy scrutiny in their bid to acquire Sky PLC:

    A Fox Business spokesperson said Payne had been “suspended pending further investigation” after being asked about allegations that surfaced previously in The Los Angeles Times. “We take issues of this nature extremely seriously and have a zero tolerance policy for any professional misconduct. This matter is being thoroughly investigated and we are taking all of the appropriate steps to reach a resolution in a timely manner,” the network said in a statement.

    A female political analyst who has appeared on Fox News as well as CNN has contacted the law firm of Paul Weiss, which has been working for Fox for several months, alleging she was banned from Fox after ending an extramarital affair she had with the anchor in 2015, according to a report in The Los Angeles Times. An attorney for Payne told the Times the anchor denied sexually harassing the woman. The analyst alleged her Fox appearances were reduced after she terminated the relationship.

    […]

    But the revelations around Payne suggest the company faces more disclosure about past behavior. 21st Century Fox remains under scrutiny as it strives to acquire the remaining shares in European broadcaster Sky PLC that it does not own and its bid is examined by British government regulators. Proving that the company has taken steps to improve its working culture could serve to curtail criticism as its effort to buy Sky gains further scrutiny. Earlier this week, Fox Sports dismissed programming chief Jamie Horowitz, citing an investigation into claims of sexual harassment.

    Payne is the latest example of the culture of predatory behavior at Fox News, joining former chairman and CEO Roger Ailes, host Bill O’Reilly, Fox News Latino vice president Francisco Cortes, and the decades-long reports of harassment at the network. 

    UPDATE: HuffPost wrote that the report of sexual harassment against Payne came from conservative commentator Scottie Nell Hughes. From HuffPost:

    Conservative analyst Scottie Nell Hughes has accused Charles Payne, a Fox Business host, of sexual harassment, multiple sources tell HuffPost.

    [...]

    Hughes has told several sources that she feels that Payne, the network and Bill Shine ― then co-president of Fox News and Fox Business ― retaliated against her after they learned of the relationship, which would be the basis for her sexual harassment claim.

  • Coverage of Rob Kardashian’s misogynistic abuse is garbage

    How coverage of entertainment news perpetuates sexism

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    A wide array of media outlets, ranging from entertainment magazines to outlets targeting women (that have higher editorial standards than their entertainment counterparts), perpetuated sexism and attempted to shame female sexuality in their terrible coverage of Rob Kardashian’s misogynistic social media behavior against his ex-girlfriend. By doing so, they downplayed, if not completely ignored, the potential crime of revenge porn that Kardashian committed.

    On July 5, Kardashian, who is currently a sock designer but who rose to fame through different iterations of television reality shows featuring his family, took to his Instagram account in apparent spite to publish graphic images his ex-girlfriend Blac Chyna had sent him. After Instagram shut down Kardashian’s account for violating its no-nudity policy, he took to Twitter to post the same content.

    Entertainment magazines like Entertainment Tonight, US Weekly, and People, presented the incident as a “social media war,” focusing on the celebrity feud and the salacious images without mentioning that Kardashian’s sexist behavior was potentially criminal. While it’s not atypical for these publications to uncritically present the problematic behavior of celebrities as entertainment, the substandard coverage of Kardashian’s abusive stunt spread to other publications, including some that write for female audiences and have higher editorial ambitions.

    Coverage from Jezebel, LatinaMarie Claire, Bustle and Refinery29 to varying degrees shared a similar form of play-by-play reporting, paraphrasing most of Kardashian’s gross posts and giving the abusive narrative new life on their platforms, thus furthering a man’s shaming of a woman for her sexual activities. Their accounts failed to mention Kardashian’s behavior could amount to revenge porn, or the distribution of “nonconsensual pornography,” an act that has been illegal in California since 2014 and can be penalized with up to 6 months in jail and a fine.

    These outlets, specifically those that target female audiences, failed women by not contextualizing the abhorrent behavior and presenting it as what it is: shaming a woman for freely exercising her sexuality and publishing material that was meant to be private with the purpose of attacking a victim. They aided Kardashian in further advancing his hateful messages while failing to inform audiences of the illegality of his behavior. They missed an opportunity to provide useful sources -- like those provided by Without My Consent, a website advocating for victims of revenge porn -- for readers that have been victimized in similar ways.

    Not every article missed the mark. Outlets including Glamour magazine and The Washington Post provided good coverage that focused on how “Kardashian’s Instagram posts are the epitome of revenge porn,” and noted that not only were Kardashian’s actions “cruel,” but also possibly illegal. Glamour called out Kardashian’s “slut-shaming,” noting “he crossed a serious line,” and The Post gave a detailed account of what revenge porn is, providing statistics on the number of Americans who have been threatened with or subjected to revenge porn.

    Women’s media outlets have stood out in the past for their political reporting and for covering the effects different policy issues have on different communities. They shouldn’t let their celebrity coverage tarnish their credibility as a go-to source for many women.

    Kelly Matthews and Katherine Hess contributed research to this piece.

  • Trump's Mika Brzezinski tweets show that he hates women -- especially members of the press

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    This morning, the president of the United States used his favorite media platform for addressing the public to remind us of just how little respect he has for women -- especially women in the press.

    Shortly before 9 a.m., Trump posted two revoltingly sexist tweets attacking MSNBC’s Morning Joe co-host Mika Brzezinski for her appearance and intellect. The leader of the free world called the morning show anchor “low I.Q. Crazy Mika” and alleged that she had attempted to visit him at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida on New Year’s Eve and was “bleeding badly from a face-lift” at the time.

    This isn’t the first time Trump’s attacked women media figures -- it’s not even close -- and it’s also not the first time he’s done it on Twitter. In recent years, he has tweeted that:

    He and his campaign targeted reporter Michelle Fields (formerly of Breitbart.com and HuffPost) after then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was shown on camera manhandling her at a campaign event.

    Trump repeatedly lashed out at Megyn Kelly during the campaign season offline as well, at one point saying in an interview that she had “blood coming out of her wherever.” He also attacked Tur at rallies and in interviews, calling her “Little Katy, third-rate journalist” and “not a very good reporter” and singling her out at press events.

    After People’s Natasha Stoynoff reported that Trump had sexually assaulted her in 2005, Trump suggested at a campaign rally that the report was false because Stoynoff wasn’t attractive, saying, "You take a look. Look at her. Look at her words. You tell me what you think. I don't think so.”

    Earlier this week, Trump was openly reducing another professional reporter to her body, pausing an official diplomatic call in the Oval Office to comment on Irish reporter Caitriona Perry’s smile.

    This post has been updated to reflect that Michelle Fields no longer works at HuffPost.