Roger Ailes | Media Matters for America

Roger Ailes

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  • Trump helped create Fox Business, which is now a key pro-Trump propaganda network

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    According to The Daily Beast, Donald Trump “helped” disgraced former Fox CEO and chairman Roger Ailes create Fox News' sister network, Fox Business.

    According to the report, “Prior to the Fox Business Network’s debut in 2007, late right-wing cable-news chief Roger Ailes consulted with then-reality-TV star Trump on how it should look and feel.” The report went on to note that Ailes and Trump “maintained their relationship well into the 2016 campaign, during which the disgraced and ousted Fox News chief briefly advised Trump.”

    Throughout the Trump presidency, Fox Business personalities such as Stuart Varney, Maria Bartiromo, and Lou Dobbs have consistently proven to be possibly even more sycophantically pro-Trump than their Fox News counterparts, pushing absurd conspiracy theories and even contradicting the public statements of their own network’s leadership in Trump’s defense. Fox Business’ programming in the Trump era also has earned the praise of noted conspiracy theorist and illustrious clown Alex Jones.

    From The Daily Beast’s November 21 report:

    Prior to the Fox Business Network’s debut in 2007, late right-wing cable-news chief Roger Ailes consulted with then-reality-TV star Trump on how it should look and feel, according to former Fox executives. The two maintained their relationship well into the 2016 campaign, during which the disgraced and ousted Fox News chief briefly advised Trump, the executives and a source close to Trump said.

    According to one source, Trump advised Ailes to angle the network more toward news, entertainment, and politics instead of only business coverage. It was Trump’s decade-old vision for Fox Business that would, especially during the Trump presidency, become reality.

    One of the reasons Fox Business has endured in political relevance is that the most powerful person in the world agrees with that sentiment.

    In the West Wing, Trump is still a frequent consumer of the Fox Business Network, former and current White House aides say, and is particularly taken by shows hosted by Dobbs and Maria Bartiromo. The president cites and praises both Fox Business stars regularly within the halls of the White House, both in official meetings and in casual conversations.

    Even without Trump’s physical presence at the Fox Business Network, the president’s fingerprints are all over the network 11 years later in that the channel has morphed from a right-leaning CNBC competitor into what can often be viewed as an even more fervently pro-Trump outlet than its big sister.

  • Rupert Murdoch says Fox News harassment stopped with Roger Ailes. He couldn't be more wrong. 

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Fox News executive chairman Rupert Murdoch reportedly said in a Sky interview that the network’s ongoing culture of sexual harassment was actually “all nonsense” and consisted simply of “isolated incidents.” Murdoch further asserted that the harassment at Fox was only perpetrated by former chairman and CEO Roger Ailes, and “there’s been nothing else since then.”

    Ailes was first publicly named for serial harassment in July 2016 when former Fox host Gretchen Carlson filed a lawsuit detailing how Ailes and Steve Doocy -- the current co-host of Fox & Friends -- made “sexually-charged comments” and were “sexist and condescending” toward her, respectively. The lawsuit also said Ailes made “demands for sex as a way to improve her job standing.” At least 25 women have come forward with stories of Ailes’ misconduct and harassment. Ailes resigned 2 weeks later. Ailes’ pattern of behavior, spanning at least a decade, seems far worse than a series of “isolated incidents.”

    What’s more, since Ailes’ departure on July 21, 2016:

    • The New York Times reported that (now former) Fox News host Bill O’Reilly and/or Fox News parent company 21st Century Fox had made at least six settlements for sexual misconduct -- including one for an astounding $32 million.
    • Fox suspended and conducted an internal investigation into Fox Business host Charles Payne after frequent Fox guest Scottie Nell Hughes reported that Payne had coerced her into a years-long relationship “under threat of reprisals." Payne was later cleared by the internal investigation, but is now named in a lawsuit from Hughes alleging rape and retaliation by Payne.
    • Fox News suspended, then “part[ed] ways amicably” with co-host Eric Bolling amid an investigation into claims he sent “unsolicited photos of male genitalia to current and former female colleagues at the network.”
    • Newsweek wrote about public reports of misconduct by Fox News co-host Juan Williams when he worked at The Washington Post. Fox News hired him years after the harassment claims were public.
    • A video of Bette Midler’s interview with Barbara Walters in 1991 resurfaced in which Midler described Fox News’ Geraldo Rivera assaulting her. Midler shared the video herself, and reiterated her story, also saying Rivera never apologized. The video’s resurfacing coincided with Rivera publicly defending reported harassment and assault by former NBC host Matt Lauer. The following day, Fox News said it was “troubled” by Rivera’s comments and Rivera later tweeted apologies about his statements, as well as a (sort-of) apology to Midler.

    So it sure seems like there’s been some other things since Ailes left!

    This isn’t the first time lately Fox has tried to congratulate itself on handling sexual harassment complaints lately. It’s just the most bizarre.

  • Sean Hannity's extensive history of undermining women who report sexual misconduct and defending the men accused

    Blog ››› ››› ANDREW LAWRENCE, JULIE ALDERMAN & DINA RADTKE


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Fox News host Sean Hannity has become a reliable ally for powerful men accused of sexual assault and harassment, regularly using his platform to discredit women who report sexual misconduct and cast doubt on their complaints. Here is a look back on the ways Hannity has attempted to undermine these women and defend the men who have been reported.

    Roy Moore

    Eight women have said Alabama Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, a former judge of Alabama Supreme Court, sexually harassed or assaulted them, or had relations with them, when they were teenagers. The Washington Post first reported on November 9 that Leigh Corfman was 14 years old when Moore made sexual advancements toward her, and a number of women have since come forward with similar claims.

    Hannity: Many women who report sexual harassment “will lie to make money.” [Media Matters, 11/9/17]

    Hannity: “Then you have false allegations that are made, and -- how do you determine? It's ‘He said, she [said].’" [Media Matters, 11/9/17]

    Hannity: “How do you know if it's true? How do we -- what's true? What's not true? How do you ascertain the truth?” [Media Matters, 11/9/17]

    Hannity: “We do have Ten Commandments. One of the commandments is ‘Thou shalt not bear false witness.’ We know human beings break, with regularity, the other nine commandments. Did they break this one?” [Media Matters, 11/9/17]

    Hannity: “But then also, are there false allegations? And when it's ‘he said, she said’ or whatever, how do you tell the difference?” [Premiere Radio Networks, Media Matters, 11/9/17]

    Hannity invoked the Duke Lacrosse team case; Michael Brown, who was shot by a white cop in Ferguson, MO; George Zimmerman, who fatally shot Trayvon Martin; and Freddie Gray, who was killed in police custody to suggest there’s a history of accusers lying. [Media Matters, 11/9/17]

    Hannity: The “swamp,” “the sewer,” and the “establishment” are out to get Moore. [Media Matters, 11/9/17]

    Hannity: The Wash. Post “hates anything Republican, anything conservative.” [Media Matters, 11/9/17]

    Roger Ailes

    In July 2016, former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson filed a lawsuit against Roger Ailes, the now-deceased former Fox News CEO, alleging sexual harassment and retaliation against her when she would not have “a sexual relationship with him.” An additional 25 women also came forward with similar accusations. Reports later detailed startling revelations of Ailes’ attempts to cover up his sexual misconduct by spying on employees and silencing his accusers.

    Hannity to Carlson: “Why did you stay after such ‘harassment’ asking for more airtime?” [Twitter, 7/13/16]

    Hannity about Carlson: “Why did [Carlson] send handwritten notes with smiley faces asking for more airtime after the ‘alleged’ traumatic incident?” [Twitter, 7/13/16]

    Hannity attacked accusations levied by Carlson as coming from a “publicity seeking” attorney. [Twitter, 7/9/16]

    Hannity: “Hundreds of woman (sic) at Fox that I talked to” said all allegations against Ailes are “BS.” [Twitter, 7/9/16]

    Hannity: “I have spoken to many woman (sic) who work at Fox that have the most amazing stories of how kind Roger is to them.” [Twitter, 7/9/16]

    Hannity to Gabriel Sherman who reported on Ailes: “U r an Ailes and Fox stalker.” [Twitter, 7/13/16]

    Donald Trump

    In 2016, at least 20 women accused then-candidate Donald Trump of sexual misconduct, including 12 nonconsensual physical encounters. In October 2016, The Washington Post reported on a video clip in which a hot microphone caught Trump bragging to Billy Bush, then of Access Hollywood, “in vulgar terms about kissing, groping and trying to have sex with women.”

    Hannity shrugged off accusations against Trump, arguing, “King David had 500 concubines for crying out loud!” [Fox News, Hannity, 10/7/16]

    Hannity suggested that one of Trump’s accusers may have “welcome[d]” the sexual assault.  [Media Matters, 10/13/16]

    Hannity mocked one of Trump's accusers: “Donald Trump groped me on a plane. It was all right for the first 15 minutes, but then he went too far.” [Media Matters, 10/14/17]

    Hannity on Trump accusers: “Just saying ‘help’ would solve the problem.” [Media Matters, 10/20/17]

    Hannity called accusations of sexual assault against Trump “an attempt to neutralize the WikiLeaks revelations,” referring to the stories generated from hacked Democratic emails.  [Media Matters, 10/13/16]

    Bill O’Reilly

    On April 1, The New York Times reported that former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly and 21st Century Fox, Fox News’ parent company, paid out at least $13 million in settlements with five women who said O’Reilly harassed them.

    Hannity gave O’Reilly a platform on his shows multiple times to attack the women who reported him. [Media Matters, 9/26/17, 10/5/17]

    Hannity hosted disgraced former Fox host O’Reilly after he was fired from the network. [Media Matters, 9/25/17]

    Clarence Thomas

    In 1991, Anita Hill, who worked as a former aide to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas during his time at the Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, “submitted a confidential statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee alleging that Thomas had sexually harassed her 10 years earlier,” according to CBS News. At least two other women also accused Thomas of sexual assault.

    While interviewing Thomas, Hannity referred to his accusers as “those that systematically went about destroying you.” [FoxNews.com, 10/3/07]

    Hannity implied that Thomas was “an innocent man” who had had “his reputation destroyed forever.” [Premiere Radio Networks, The Sean Hannity Show, 11/10/17]

    Hannity has praised Thomas for “giving one of the most powerful defenses” against sexual assault accusations. [Fox News, Hannity, 11/10/17]

    Herman Cain

    In 2011, at least two women reported that Herman Cain, who was at the time a candidate in the Republican presidential primaries, had sexually harased them during his tenure as the head of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s.

    Under a screen graphic that read “Herman hysteria,” Hannity questioned whether the charges were “politically motivated,” and badgered an accuser for “staying in the car” with Cain after she says she was harassed. [Media Matters, 11/11/11]

    Hannity sought to discredit accusations against Cain and Justice Clarence Thomas, parroting their characterization of the charges as a “high-tech lynching.” [Politico, 11/10/11]

    Hannity on Cain’s press conference denying sexual harassment accusations: “You would think this is going to end it.” [Media Matters 11/9/11]

    Bill Shine

    After Ailes was ousted in August 2016 amid mounting sexual harassment allegations, Fox News promoted Bill Shine to co-president of the network. As senior executive vice president, Shine had reportedly “played an integral role” in covering up sexual harassment claims, including those against Ailes. Shine had a role in pushing “women into confidential mediation [and into] signing nondisclosure agreements in exchange for their contracts to be paid” as well as in establishing a “counter-narrative” to discredit Carlson. He later resigned after reports surfaced that he was cited “in at least four lawsuits” that accused him of ignoring, dismissing, and even concealing sexual harassment allegations against Ailes.

    Hannity: “Somebody HIGH UP AND INSIDE FNC is trying to get an innocent person fired.” [Twitter, 4/27/16]

    Hannity: If Shine is fired, “that’s the total end of the FNC as we know it.” [Twitter, 4/27/16]

    Hannity: “#Istandwithshine.” [Twitter, 4/27/16]

  • The only defensible reason to have Brian Kilmeade on ABC's This Week is to ask him about sexual harassment at Fox News

    Kilmeade routinely says dumb things and has a long history of misogyny

    Blog ››› ››› NINA MAST


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade, who has a history of making inept and degrading commentary, has inexplicably been invited to appear on ABC’s This Week on Sunday. The only defense for this invitation would be if the show is planning to discuss the culture of sexual harassment rampant in the media, particularly within Fox News, during the segment. Instead, the interview appears to be a part of the promotional tour for a book Kilmeade co-authored about a 45-minute battle during the War of 1812.

    Explosive reports of sexual harassment in Hollywood and at major news networks have dominated the news cycle this month. Just in the past few days, new revelations have surfaced about Kilmeade’s employer, Fox News, attempting to cover up allegations of sexual harassment against former Fox host Bill O’Reilly and bully women who spoke out against him. Fox has spent only minutes addressing the issue on air.

    There is no excuse to not ask Kilmeade about the toxic culture of sexual harassment that plagues the network that employs him, and in which he has personally participated. Kilmeade has a history of degrading women on Fox & Friends, a show he currently co-hosts with Steve Doocy and Ainsley Earhardt. Additionally, Kilmeade co-hosted Fox & Friends with former Fox host Gretchen Carlson who said in a complaint that co-host Steve Doocy "created a hostile work environment" and "engaged in a pattern and practice of severe and pervasive sexual harassment."

    Kilmeade is a misogynist and an embarrassment to the television news industry. Rather than give him an opportunity to advertise his book for free, ABC has a responsibility to ask Kilmeade tough questions about his participation in the culture of sexual harassment and sexism Fox News appears committed to preserving.

  • The infrastructure that enabled serial sexual harassment at Fox is still working

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    A new report from The New York Times has revealed still more horrifying details of both former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly’s serial sexual misconduct and the almost equally horrifying extent to which 21st Century Fox executives attempted to keep his pattern of harassment from the public eye. The Times report, detailing actions taken earlier this year, offers compelling evidence of an entire infrastructure of misogyny and abuse still at work at 21st Century Fox.

    On October 21, The New York Times’ Emily Steel and Michael Schmidt reported that 21st Century Fox, Fox News’ parent company, had known of a recent settlement O’Reilly made following sexual harassment claims when it renewed his contract at the start of this year.

    The case was settled with now-former Fox legal analyst Lis Wiehl for an astounding $32 million, and it reportedly addressed complaints of “repeated harassment, a nonconsensual sexual relationship and the sending of gay pornography and other sexually explicit material.” The extraordinarily high sum that O’Reilly paid, along with the limited reporting on the contents of the case, suggest very serious reports of assault were made. (As a condition of the settlement, Wiehl signed an affidavit saying she “would no longer make the allegations contained in the draft complaint.”)

    The $32 million settlement is shocking because of its amount, but arguably less so in what it suggests about the extent of O’Reilly’s misconduct. The public is, after all, all too familiar with the toxic patterns of abusive, powerful men.

    The truly astounding aspect of this new report is the way the settlement was handled at 21st Century Fox and by its leaders, the Murdochs: with the uncompromising goal of preserving business (and profit) as usual. As the report says:

    In January, the reporting shows, Rupert Murdoch and his sons, Lachlan and James, the top executives at 21st Century Fox, made a business calculation to stand by Mr. O’Reilly despite his most recent, and potentially most explosive, harassment dispute.

    Their decision came as the company was trying to convince its employees, its board and the public that it had cleaned up the network’s workplace culture. At the same time, they were determined to hold on to Mr. O’Reilly,  whose value to the network increased after the departure of another prominent host, Megyn Kelly.

    But by April, the Murdochs decided to jettison Mr. O’Reilly as some of the settlements became public and posed a significant threat to their business empire.

    Sources told Steel and Schmidt that 21st Century Fox executives knew of the Wiehl settlement as they moved to renew O’Reilly’s contract in the beginning of the year. In a statement to the Times, 21st Century Fox said that it was not privy to the unusually high amount paid in the settlement. Even if the Murdochs were somehow not taking into account any other report made about O’Reilly’s serial harassment -- the earliest known incident of which took place in 2004 -- they were undoubtedly aware of this very new and specific reported misconduct as they oversaw contract matters at the start of the year. On the Times podcast The Daily, Steel and Schmidt further explained:

    MICHAEL SCHMIDT: The larger context here is that Fox knew about all of [O’Reilly’s settlements for misconduct], except they say they didn’t know about the size of the Lis Wiehl deal, when they gave him a contract extension in February. Now the important thing is that Fox News never investigated these accusations, and they never asked O’Reilly’s lawyers what the dollar figure was.

    EMILY STEEL: Something interesting about that, though, is that the woman that he reached the settlement with was a 15-year legal analyst at Fox News.

    MICHAEL BARBARO (HOST): So there was, it sounds like, a pretty meticulous attempt by Fox to take this out of the realm of employment law and of employee relations.

    21s Century Fox and the Murdochs’ response to Wiehl’s alarming report and the news of a settlement was not to raise said alarm, but to encourage active silence. They simply decided to add language to O’Reilly’s new contract that would allow Fox to fire him should new reports of harassment surface. This was more or less the same course of action taken elsewhere in the entertainment industry just two years earlier, when we now know that members of The Weinstein Co. board similarly added language to serial sexual predator Harvey Weinstein’s 2015 employment contract to account for any new reports of misconduct.

    A statement from O’Reilly’s attorney, in response to the October 21 Times report, bafflingly offers the claimed defense that Fox itself has paid nearly $100 million in settlements for workplace sexual harassment to “dozens of women [who] accused scores of male employees.” If this statement is accurate, not only is it not a defense in any way, but it also magnifies how structural and cultural misogyny has flourished at Fox for so long.

    What we’re seeing now at Fox, more and more clearly with each new revelation about O’Reilly and many other employees, is what Times culture writers Jenna Wortham and Wesley Morris called an “infrastructure of abuse” when describing the Harvey Weinstein reports. Of course, workplace sexual harassment is prevalent across industries and communities, and to some extent said “infrastructure,” unfortunately, simply seems to be society at large. But on a micro scale, 21st Century Fox, like Weinstein’s Hollywood, is a remarkable case study of how privilege for powerful men is embedded into entire institutions, from top to bottom, department to department, in public and in private.

    21st Century Fox has developed an entire cultural infrastructure of actors and systems that enabled misogyny and abuse to continue for decades without interruption. And the details of the Times report, focused on actions taken just months ago, reveal this infrastructure has yet to be removed. This is how we know it operates, in practice.

    Fox's signature on-air misogyny translates into real-life harassment, or worse

    Fox leaders, like former CEO Roger Ailes, and on-air personalities, spewing misogyny in their daily work, sometimes translate that hatred for women into real-life harassment or worse. Like the on-air actions, it is also often repeated behavior.

    Ineffective internal reporting systems offer no real justice

    Fox decision-makers create systems where reporting to human resources doesn’t feel like a real option or has proven itself not to be. In a Times report from July 2016, nearly a dozen women who experienced harassment at Fox told the Times that “they were reluctant to go to the human resources department with their complaints for fear that they would be fired.” And just this morning, former Fox News host Megyn Kelly agreed that “Fox News was not exactly a friendly environment for harassment victims who wanted to report, in my experience,” and said O’Reilly was “permitted, with management’s advanced notice and blessing, to go on the air and attack the company’s harassment victims.” She also noted the “vindictiveness” of Irena Briganti, who still works as media relations chief at Fox and is known for pushing negative stories about women who reported Ailes.

    And yet, in his statements about the sexual harassment reports, O’Reilly has chosen to use this structural flaw at his workplace as though it’s evidence of his innocence: “In the more than 20 years Bill O'Reilly worked at Fox News, not one complaint was filed against him with the Human Resources Department or Legal Department by a coworker, even on the anonymous hotline.” (This fear and distrust of a weak internal reporting system is also one we’ve heard in the reports about Harvey Weinstein, whose company’s human resources department was described as “utterly ineffective” -- and it’s another aspect of the Fox infrastructure that’s reflected in society at large. One study concluded that about 70 percent of women who experience workplace harassment do not report it, for fear of retaliation.)

    If an employee chooses to report, she will face internal attempts to silence her

    If Fox employees do choose to report sexual harassment or other misconduct, they may face internal attempts to keep them silent. During Ailes’ reign, those attempts reportedly included personal meetings and surveillance designed to intimidate women into withdrawing complaints, as well as individual efforts to bury reports. After Ailes left Fox, he was replaced, at the Murdochs’ command, by two individuals who were reportedly implicated in these efforts. One, Bill Shine, was forced out of the network. The other remains on staff, along with many others who were complicit in silencing employees who came forward, all under the continued leadership of the Murdochs.

    An employee who reports misconduct could also face legal challenges

    Employees reporting sexual misconduct may also face legal challenges stemming from their employment contracts or from powerful lawyers hired by Fox itself or the men they’ve reported. Former Fox host Gretchen Carlson, who reached a $20 million settlement following her reports that Roger Ailes had repeatedly sexually harassed her, has discussed the legal difficulties she faced in coming forward. Her activism now specifically focuses on combating forced arbitration clauses in employment contracts, which can keep survivors of harassment or assault from pursuing legal justice publicly.

    Such legal challenges mean that the women who are harassed at Fox often quietly reach settlements and leave. They may have signed nondisclosure agreements designed to keep them from speaking up. They may have written letters or affidavits rescinding their reports as conditions of the settlements. (These were also common tactics used by Harvey Weinstein.) Or they may simply have recognized what little power they really had and decided not to speak publicly.

    21st Century Fox does whatever else it can to keep reports from becoming public

    Fox executives then do whatever else they can to keep news of sexual misconduct from becoming public information. They commit their company to paying over $100 million, according to O’Reilly’s lawyer, in settlements. Perhaps they work to bury those settlements from public view, or hide them through financial tricks that may be improper or even illegal. And they add clauses to new contracts to keep it from happening again, maybe, hopefully.

    If reports do become public, 21st Century Fox only acts to save its bottom line

    If news of sexual misconduct does become public at any point, Fox News executives take action only in so much as they must to save their bottom line. Fox fired O’Reilly only when he began to cost the network too much money -- not just in the settlements it may have helped him to pay, but in advertising dollars. He was also making 21st Century Fox look bad in a very public way, at a time when it was eager to appear “fit and proper” to expand its reach in the U.K. by taking over Sky news.

    When 21st Century Fox is forced to publicly act as a “fit and proper” employer might, as during the height of the O’Reilly reports in the spring, it has launched “independent investigations.” But these examinations are almost always conducted by the same law firm, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison, that conducted its sham investigation after Ailes was fired.

    The proof that these actions -- the suspensions, investigations, and even firings -- have only ever been about the bottom line is all too clear: With that U.K. bid still under review, but with Fox News’ Hannity now up against the very popular MSNBC’s The Rachel Maddow Show, O’Reilly was invited back onto the network for a ratings-thirsty appearance on the show last month.

    If someone is fired amid reports of sexual misconduct, they are free to launch public attacks 

    When Fox is forced to fire someone reported for serial sexual harassment, it pays him millions of dollars on the way out and speaks only nicely of him going forward. Its other on-air talent, however, is left to publicly take sides (actually, just the one side) and smear at will anyone who came forward. Scottie Nell Hughes, a conservative commentator who stepped up earlier this year to say Fox Business host Charles Payne raped her, told The Washington Post’s Margaret Sullivan she’s now being ostracized by media writ large. (Payne was reinstated at the network following an internal investigation by, you guessed it -- Paul Weiss -- stemming from earlier reports made by Hughes.)

    And the men who Fox was forced to suspend or fire are allowed to defend themselves, and publicly attack the women who reported them, by all means available, sometimes with the active encouragement of current Fox employees. Fox's Sean Hannity, for example, not only hosted O'Reilly on his show just last month, but also hosted O'Reilly on his radio program to attack one of the women who reported him. Today, Hannity promoted an appearance by O'Reilly on fellow former Fox news host Glenn Beck's radio program -- an appearance in which the former host claimed his firing was a "hit job" by biased media. O'Reilly continues to enjoy a platform to speak his mind, courtesy of the media and his friends at Fox. 

    This is what it means to have an entire infrastructure working against you, as a survivor: Imagine that you work at Fox News, and tomorrow you are sexually harassed by a supervisor at work. What paths would seem like real options for justice? 

    What you’re thinking right now? That’s how we know nothing has changed at 21st Century Fox.

  • 21st Century Fox had to settle reports about sexual harassment as early as 1998

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    21st Century Fox paid a woman a “substantial” settlement in 1998 after she reported David Hill, former chairman of Fox Sports, for sexual misconduct. The case is one of the “earliest recorded” settlements by 21st Century Fox for sexual misconduct according to attorney Lisa Bloom.

    Hill was reported by Paula Radin, a vice president for special events at Fox Broadcasting Company, for “sexually aggressive behavior,” leading to a “substantial” settlement. Hill was later promoted to chairman of Fox Sports Media group according to The Wrap.

    Earlier this year, Bill O’Reilly was let go following a long history of sexual harassment reports by multiple women. In 2016, former Fox News chairman and CEO, Roger Ailes was reported for sexual harassment by 25 women and forced to resign. Recently, Fox Business host Charles Payne has been suspended while being investigated following a report of sexual harassment by a former political analyst at the network. And less than two weeks ago, Fox Sports president, Jamie Horowitz was let go under sexual misconduct allegations.

    Lisa Bloom, an attorney who has filed multiple sexual harassment cases against Fox says that Fox’s failure to address these cases in an appropriate manner has allowed this behavior to continue for years. From The Wrap:

    21st Century Fox paid off a woman who accused former top executive David Hill of sexual misconduct while he ran Fox Sports, two individuals with knowledge of the situation told TheWrap.

    The payment happened in 1998, and suggests Fox had issues with sexual harassment long before the investigations that led to the exits of Fox News star Bill O’Reilly and founder Roger Ailes, and the ouster of Fox Sports President Jamie Horowitz last month.

    The payment came when Hill was chairman of Fox Sports. Hill, part of Fox chief Rupert Murdoch’s inner circle, was promoted to chairman of Fox Sports Media Group the following year, and had a 24-year career with the company that ended in 2015.

    “That’s the earliest recorded Fox case I’ve heard about,” attorney Lisa Bloom, who has filed several sexual harassment suits against Fox, said of the 1998 case. “If they’d cleaned house then, or simply monitored their staff to require compliance with the law, so many women could have been spared.

  • Betsy DeVos just perpetuated years of right-wing attacks on rape survivors

    Blog ››› ››› SHARON KANN


    Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

    Many have questioned the incomprehensible logic of President Donald Trump’s proposal to collaborate with Russia on cybersecurity policy, but Education Secretary Betsy DeVos appears to be deploying a similar strategy: collaborating with rape deniers on policy regarding campus sexual assault. This comes after right-wing media spent years questioning the severity of sexual assault and attacking the credibility of survivors.

    First reported by Politico, DeVos planned a July 13 meeting with “advocates for survivors of campus sexual assault, as well as with groups representing students who say they were wrongfully accused.”

    Politico identified several invitees as representatives from the men’s rights groups Stop Abusive and Violent Environments (SAVE), Families Advocating for Campus Equality (FACE), and National Coalition for Men -- all of which have dedicated themselves to combating what they believe is rampant false reporting of sexual assault, and the lack of attention paid to the “true victims”: those who are accused.

    As The Daily Beast’s Robert Silverman noted, the Southern Poverty Law Center classified SAVE as an organization that is “promoting misogyny” and "lobbying to roll back services for victims of domestic abuse and penalties for their tormentors.” Jaclyn Friedman, an expert on campus sexual violence, told Silverman that groups like SAVE not only “actively publicize the names of rape survivors in order to intimidate them,” but also “blame women for ‘instigating’ men's violence against them” and believe that “victims' sexual histories should be fair game in rape cases.” According to ThinkProgress and BuzzFeed, organizations like FACE, National Coalition for Men, and the like are no better in their advocacy, nor less extreme in their beliefs.

    Despite posturing from these groups, false rape reports are actually a statistical minority -- representing between 2 and 8 percent of all reported cases. Meanwhile, according to research by the Rape, Abuse, & Incest Network (RAINN), 66 percent of rapes go unreported to law enforcement. The National Sexual Violence Resource Center found that “one in five women and one in 71 men will be raped at some point in their lives,” while the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey revealed that “nearly half” of survey respondents “were sexually assaulted at some point in their lifetime.” Survivors already face rampant challenges when reporting sexual assault, and it is unlikely the Department of Education’s invitation to these men’s rights groups will improve these conditions.

    A July 12 press release explained that DeVos would meet with the various groups in a series of “listening sessions” meant to “discuss the impact of the Department’s Title IX sexual assault guidance on students, families and institutions.” In 2011, the Obama administration provided schools with guidance on how to “review and enforce Title IX complaints,” emphasizing the role assault and harassment play in the creation of “a hostile educational environment in violation of Title IX.” Many have speculated that DeVos’ openness to including men’s rights organizations in the meetings is just the latest signal that the department will revoke these protections.

    In April, ProPublica implied that DeVos’ selection of Candice Jackson to head the Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) was a sign of bad things to come for Title IX and anti-sexual violence protections, noting that Jackson had previously “arranged for several of Bill Clinton’s accusers to attend a presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton” and that she called women who accused Trump of sexual assault “fake victims.” In June, ProPublica published a memo from Jackson that directed OCR staff to make changes to investigative procedures that “advocates fear will mean less consistent findings of systemic discrimination at colleges.” As ThinkProgress previously reported, DeVos herself has “long donated to organizations that frequently side with students accused of rape and sexual abuse.”

    The men’s rights groups DeVos plans to meet with aren’t alone in waging war on sexual violence protections and survivors. Some of Trump’s favorite right-wing media figures and staunchest cable news supporters have put on a masterclass in how to not report on sexual assault. After an uncovered 2005 audio showed Trump bragging about committing sexual assault, many Fox News employees seemingly made it their jobs to either downplay the severity of his comments or attack the many women who came forward with specific allegations against him.

    Even before Trump, right-wing media were especially adamant in their campaign of misrepresenting the severity of sexual assault and harassment. Beyond disputing the veracity of campus sexual assault statistics, right-wing media figures have called reporting on statutory rape “whiny,” claimed sexual assault victims have a “coveted status,” blamed feminism for encouraging sexual assault, and said attempts to curb sexual assault harm men and constitute “a war happening on boys.” Although she has since fled the network in an attempt to rehab her image at NBC, former Fox News star Megyn Kelly was a chief proponent of the “war on boys” talking point -- which was just part of her long history of criticizing sexual assault prevention measures and minimizing the credibility of survivors.

    Fox itself has spent the better part of the past year -- when not providing the ultimate safe space for Trump and his administration -- embroiled in a series of sexual assault allegations after years of harassment at the network. Such allegations ultimately led to the ouster of both the late Fox News CEO Roger Ailes and longtime host (now aspiring podcast provocateur) Bill O’Reilly, as well as the recent suspension of Fox Business host Charles Payne.

    Although right-wing media have engaged in some of the most overt attacks on survivors, many other outlets are far from magnanimous in their coverage of sexual assault. As coverage around former Stanford student Brock Turner showed, media have a bad habit of sympathetically highlighting the past accomplishments of the accused, or bemoaning the costs to their lives and careers.

    The New York Times fell into this very trap in a July 12 article about the meetings. The Times began its report by highlighting the “heartfelt missives from college students, mostly men, who had been accused of rape or sexual assault” before going on to describe the consequences they faced, ranging from “lost scholarships” to expulsion. In one case, as the Times noted, a man had tried to “take his own life” but “maintained he was innocent” and “had hoped to become a doctor.” In another example, the Times highlighted the comments of the father of an accused student who complained that his son’s “entire world [was] turned upside down” and that, as the paper put it, he had been “forced to abandon his dream of becoming a college wrestling coach.” Reporting like this -- although seemingly benign -- not only perpetuates victim blaming, but also downplays the severity of allegations by treating offenders as the real victims.

    Slate’s Christina Cauterucci described DeVos’ planned meetings as “a classic case of false balance, because the two sides here do not have equal merit.” She noted that one side includes “advocates for sexual-assault victims” while the other is made up of “trolls who have made it their lives’ work to defend domestic violence.” She concluded that however unfortunate the decision to invite these men’s rights groups to meet, it was unsurprising. After all: “As a representative of an administration run by a man with an interest in protecting sexual harrassers, DeVos has every reason to side with the latter.”

    Undeterred, survivors aren’t letting DeVos off the hook that easily. While she meets with men's rights groups that have systematically tried to silence and shame survivors, organizations that advocate for them will be outside the Department of Education making their voices heard.

  • 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.

  • How To Remember Roger Ailes

    (As A Liar And Enabler Who Hurt Women)

    Blog ››› ››› PAM VOGEL

    “He went out in such a sad way, but who doesn't have sins? We all have our sins, we all have our cross to bear.”

    That’s how Fox News’ Ainsley Earhardt addressed the death of former Fox CEO Roger Ailes on Fox & Friends this morning. A few hours later, Fox News’ Happening Now co-anchor Jon Scott similarly said of Ailes, “Yes, he had his faults. We all do.” The “sins” and “faults” they’re referring to -- the ones “we all have” -- include Ailes’ serial sexual harassment of Fox News employees spanning decades. They also include the creation of a culture, on and off the air, that repeatedly told women that their bodies were not their own, but rather are subject to the sometimes-violent whims of men.

    Roger Ailes hurt women. A lot of women -- probably more than we know. And if those facts are lost in praise about the ways Ailes “forever changed the political and the media landscape,” or reduced to “kind of a sad ending to an incredible career,” it will be another message that those women don’t matter.

    In addition to the incalculable damage Ailes' signature creation has done to the political landscape in this country, his real legacy is the pain he caused for countless people: the 25 women who reported his sexual misconduct and harassment, the employees who were silenced or surveilled by Ailes and his cronies, the women and black employees who were serially harassed by others under Ailes’ watch, the surely many more Fox employees who went to work every day scared, the viewers who watched harassers deliver the news each day with Ailes’ stamp of approval, and the survivors who hear the stories about Ailes’ serial harassment and are reminded of their own pain.

    These are not “sins” that we all have committed; these are atrocities.

    Ailes’ real legacy is the message that if you’re a wealthy, powerful white man, you can hurt as many people as you want and probably get away with it. You can do it for decades, building up an environment where no one even talks about the pain you cause. And when women speak up, you can spy on them, dismiss them, and harass them.

    And when people listen to those women despite your best efforts to stop them, you can walk away with a “tarnished legacy” and an extra $40 million.