Gretchen Carlson Isn’t Alone: A History Of Sexual Harassment Allegations Against Roger Ailes And Fox News
Research ››› ››› TYLER CHERRY
Former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson’s sexual harassment lawsuit against Fox News CEO Roger Ailes -- alleging he “retaliated against” her because she would not have a “sexual relationship with him” -- is only the latest in a long line of sexual harassment complaints and lawsuits against the network’s executives and on-air personalities.
Gretchen Carlson Filed Lawsuit Against Fox CEO Roger Ailes Over Allegations Of Sexual Harassment And Retaliation
Former Fox Host Gretchen Carlson Filed Lawsuit Claiming “Ailes Retaliated Against Carlson” Because She Would Not Have “A Sexual Relationship With Him.” Lawyers at Smith Mullin P.C. representing former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson submitted a complaint to the Superior Court of New Jersey alleging that Fox News CEO Roger Ailes “retaliated against Carlson in various ways,” including “ostracizing, marginalizing, and shunning her,” as well as “terminating her employment,” because she would not have a “sexual relationship with him.” Carlson’s contract with Fox News was terminated on June 23, according to the complaint. [Complaint and Jury Demand submitted to Superior Court of New Jersey, 7/6/16]
Lawsuit Alleged Co-Host Steve Doocy “Created A Hostile Work Environment By Regularly Treating [Carlson] In A Sexist” Way, Including Manhandling Her. The complaint submitted to the Superior Court of New Jersey by lawyers at Smith Mullin P.C. representing Carlson says that “one of her co-hosts on Fox & Friends, Steve Doocy, had created a hostile work environment by regularly treating her in a sexist and condescending way, including by putting his hand on her and pulling down her arm to shush her during a live telecast.” The complaint further alleges that Doocy “engaged in a pattern and practice of severe and pervasive sexual harassment of Carlson” and treated her as a “blond female prop.” [Complaint and Jury Demand submitted to Superior Court of New Jersey, 7/6/16]
Fox Executives And Personalities Have Previously Been Sued For Sexual Harassment
Fox Host Bill O’Reilly Settled Sexual Harassment Lawsuit In 2004. Fox host Bill O’Reilly was the subject of a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by then-Fox producer Andrea Mackris, which alleged that O’Reilly made “a series of explicit phone calls to her, advised her to use a vibrator and told her about sexual fantasies involving her.” O’Reilly settled the lawsuit in 2004. According to CBS, “The New York Daily News, citing unidentified sources, reported that O'Reilly had agreed to pay Mackris anywhere from $2 million to $10 million. Separately, the New York Post said it was believed that O'Reilly paid "multimillions of dollars" to settle the suit.” [CBS News, 10/20/04]
Fox VP Accused Of Sexual Harassment In 2005 EEOC Lawsuit. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) “filed a sexual harassment lawsuit in federal court against News Corp.’s Fox News Network LLC” in 2005. The complaint contended that “Joe Chillemi, a Fox vice president who supervised its advertising and promotions departments, sexually harassed and subjected” Kim Weiler, a former Fox employee, and “other women to a hostile work environment, routinely using obscenities and vulgarities to describe women or their body parts.” The EEOC lawsuit claimed that “Chillemi also made a number of derogatory comments about pregnant women” and that a supervisor in the departments Chillemi oversaw “referred to women in those departments in a derogatory way as his ‘Promo Girls.’” [NBC News, 11/7/05]
Reports Contain Numerous Allegations Of Sexual Harassment And Sexist Comments By Ailes
The Daily Beast: “Several Women Who Once Worked At Fox News” Say “That Ailes Also Harassed Them.” The Daily Beast reported that, in the wake of Carlson’s sexual harassment lawsuit against Ailes, “several women who formerly worked at the network told The Daily Beast of similar encounters with” Ailes. The Daily Beast quoted a former Fox News employee, who said, “‘One time [Ailes] asked me if I was wearing underwear, and was he going to see anything ‘good,’’” the employee added, “It’s happened to me and lots of other women… He’s a disgusting pig who’s been getting away with this shit for 20 years.’” Several former Fox employees are quoted in the July 6 Daily Beast article alleging Ailes’ pattern of sexual harassment:
Speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation by Ailes and Fox News, several women who formerly worked at the network told The Daily Beast of similar encounters with the defendant.
“One time he asked me if I was wearing underwear, and was he going to see anything ‘good,’” said a former Fox News employee, who said she has spoken with other women at the network who said they were targets of Ailes’s sexually charged remarks. “It’s happened to me and lots of other women… He’s a disgusting pig who’s been getting away with this shit for 20 years.”
A second ex-employee, who also said Ailes verbally harassed her with inappropriate comments during one-on-one meetings, said the powerful and famously combative executive has so far escaped the consequences of his alleged behavior, because “when it comes to this issue, there’s already a conspiracy of silence. The problem is you don’t want to come forward because you don’t want to be personally and professionally destroyed. You don’t want to bring down Roger Ailes’s wrath on your head.”
She added that Ailes is hardly unique in an industry dominated by male executives who sometimes take sexual advantage of their power and position. “Television is really a difficult, arbitrary, and competitive business, and you don’t want to give TV executives a reason to say no,” she said.
A third former Fox News employee told The Daily Beast: “When I met Ailes he wouldn’t stop staring at my legs, and at one point he asked if I was single. I was taken aback and said yes. And he was like, ‘Oh, OK, so you’re not gonna get pregnant any time soon.’ And then he asked my age.
“And I think he could tell I was offended by the questions. And he said, ‘I know I’m not supposed to ask this—HR keeps telling me I can’t ask that because you can sue me because it’s illegal, but I don’t care. I’m [over 70] years old, if you wanna sue me, sue me.’” [The Daily Beast, 7/6/16]
Huffington Post: “Fox News Sources: Gretchen Carlson Wasn’t The First Roger Ailes Victim.” Huffington Post’s Michelle Fields -- who was formerly a contributor at Fox News and Breitbart News -- reported that numerous Fox “on-air personalities are unsurprised” by Carlson’s lawsuit, and have described “similar encounter[s] with Ailes.” According to the report, Ailes said “that if he was thinking of hiring a woman, he’d ask himself if he would fuck her, and if he would, then he’d hire her to be on-camera.” From the Huffington Post’s July 6 report:
Some Fox News on-air personalities are unsurprised by the news that former host Gretchen Carlson has filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes.
“We thought it would happen after she was taken off of ‘Fox & Friends,’” said one Fox News source who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation. “She kept quiet because Roger gave her the afternoon show, but everyone at Fox knew it was eventually coming. He hated her and would tell people that she was ‘a crazy, vindictive bitch.’”
Carlson’s not the only woman to accuse Ailes of such behavior. One female Fox News contributor, who asked to remain anonymous, said that she had a similar encounter with Ailes.
“He asked me to turn around so he can see my ass,” the contributor said, describing one of her meetings with the chairman.
Another Fox News employee, who likewise asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, said that Ailes told her she could only wear dresses on air. She also described a story that she said Ailes often told about his hiring process for on-camera personalities.
“He always brags to people about how he doesn’t do polling or testing when he chooses his on-air talent. He told me that if he was thinking of hiring a woman, he’d ask himself if he would fuck her, and if he would, then he’d hire her to be on-camera,” the employee said. “He then said if it was a man he’d think about whether he could sit down for a baseball game with him and not get annoyed of him. If he could, then he’d hire him.” [Huffington Post, 7/6/16]
Roger Ailes Biography Contains Allegations That He Promised A Potential Hire More Pay In Exchange For Sex. Gabriel Sherman’s biography of Roger Ailes, The Loudest Voice in the Room, contained allegations by a former colleague that Ailes “solicited sex in exchange for higher pay during a job interview.” In Sherman’s book, Randi Harrison accused Ailes of saying, “‘If you agree to have sex with me whenever I want, I will add an extra hundred dollars a week’” during salary talks in a job interview. The book also said that “Ailes indicated that he had similar relationships with other female journalists,” according to The Washington Post. [The Washington Post, 7/6/16]
Ailes: "Move That Damn Laptop, I Can't See Her Legs!" Sherman relayed an anecdote of Ailes regarding former Fox News reporter Kiran Chetry in The Loudest Voice in the Room: "Anchor Bob Sellers remembered Ailes once calling the control booth. 'I was doing the weekend show with Kiran Chetry. He called up and said, 'Move that damn laptop, I can't see her legs!'" [The Loudest Voice In The Room, via Media Matters, 1/13/14]
Ailes: "I Did Not Spend X-Number Of Dollars On A Glass Desk For Her To Wear Pant Suits.” Sherman reported that Ailes "had admiration for [former Fox host Catherine Crier's] legs" and was livid when she appeared on-air wearing pants:
"Be more opinionated," he told Crier in one meeting. "The guests are there as a foil for you." He also disagreed with her dress. "He had admiration for her legs," a senior executive said. In one meeting, Ailes barked, "Tell Catherine I did not spend x-number of dollars on a glass desk for her to wear pant suits." [The Loudest Voice in the Room, pg 238, via Media Matters, 1/13/14]
Ailes: "I Need The Leg. That's Andrea Tantaros." Sherman wrote of Ailes' inspiration for the afternoon Fox News program The Five:
Years later at Fox News, Ailes would talk fondly about his theatrical experience. "Whenever he can, he gets into the conversation that he produced Hot l Baltimore," a senior Fox executive said. Creating the Fox News afternoon show The Five, Ailes found his inspiration on the stage. "He said, 'I've always wanted to do an ensemble concept,'" a close friend said. "He said, 'I wanted a Falstaff, and that's Bob Beckel. I need a leading man, and it's Eric Bolling. I need a serious lead and that's Dana Perino. I need a court jester and it's Greg [Gutfeld], and I need the leg. That's Andrea Tantaros." [The Loudest Voice in the Room, pg 95-96, via Media Matters, 1/13/14]
Ailes Reportedly Made Job Interviewee "Uncomfortable" With "Suggestive Questions" And Flirting. Sherman reported that Ailes, while interviewing a prospective employee for an NBC show he was producing, Ailes "posed romantically suggestive questions and made flirtatious comments" to a woman, who told him it made her feel "uncomfortable":
Unbeknownst to Harrison, Shelley Ross, a former newspaper reporter turned television producer, experienced an interview in which Ailes posed romantically suggestive questions and made flirtatious comments about her appearance. "This is making me uncomfortable," Ross recalled telling Ailes. She had worked with [John] Huddy at The Miami Herald and he had recommended her for the Tomorrow job. In a follow-up telephone interview, she told Ailes that she would never date a boss. Ailes's reaction was, according to Ross, "Don't you know I'm single?" When Ross said she was no longer interested in the position, Ailes began apologizing profusely. "This must be middle-aged crazy. I'm so sorry," he said. "If you come to work for me, you know, we're not going to have any problems." Ross eventually accepted the offer and had a positive experience working for Ailes. When asked by a reporter in the mid-1990s about the comments he made to Ross in the interview, Ailes called her "crazy" and a "militant feminist." [The Loudest Voice in the Room, pg 115, via Media Matters, 1/13/14]
Ailes Made "Completely Sexist" And "Disgusting" Remark About His Female Employees. Sherman reported that in 1994, Ailes appeared on the radio show of shock jock and former Fox Business host Don Imus and made sexual and sexist remarks about two of his female hosts.
Before it was over, Ailes skewered his own employees. He joked that Mary Matalin and Jane Wallace, hosts of CNBC's Equal Time, were like "girls who if you went into a bar around seven, you wouldn't pay a lot of attention, but [they] get to be tens around closing time."
Jane Wallace didn't appear in any news stories defending Ailes. "He had no right to say something like that," she later said. "He was our boss. It was completely sexist. It was disgusting. It was outrageous. I thought it was a hideously awful thing to say." But she, too, didn't make it an issue with Ailes. "I didn't say so out loud, I was working for the guy." A few weeks later, however, Wallace quit to host her own show on FX, the start-up cable network owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation. [The Loudest Voice in the Room, pg 153, via Media Matters, 1/13/14]
Ailes Was Upset Future Employee Maria Bartiromo Had "Gained So Much Weight" In 2009. Sherman reported that in 2009 -- Ailes considered hiring CNBC anchor Maria Bartiromo, whom, Ailes was reportedly disappointed in for having Bartiromo "gained so much weight":
Around this time, he also considered poaching CNBC star Maria Bartiromo. "Roger passed on her," one executive involved in the talks said. "He wished she hadn't gained so much weight. He said she went from looking like Sophia Loren to Mamma Leone. He felt he was being used to get more money from CNBC. He told us her agent should give him part of the commission, because the talks were worth another million dollars." (In November 2013, Bartiromo jumped from CNBC to Fox Business.) [The Loudest Voice in the Room, pg 388, via Media Matters, 1/13/14]
Ailes On Gretchen Carlson's 1989 Miss America Win: "It Must Not Have Been A Good Year." Sherman explained that Ailes "vented constantly about his talent," remarking that host Andrea Tantaros is “pretty,” but questioning her talent as a political consultant. Sherman also highlighted Ailes’ comments that “it must not have been a good year” for Miss America when Carlson won:
No one was spared from Ailes's eruptions. He vented constantly about his talent. He complained about The Five co-host Andrea Tantaros, who was a former political consultant. "She's pretty, but did she ever get anyone elected, even a dog catcher?" When Gretchen Carlson's name came up, Ailes pointed out she was once Miss America, then added, "It must not have been a good year." Her co-host, Brian Kilmeade, was a "soccer coach from Long Island." Bill O'Reilly was a "book salesman with a TV show." [The Loudest Voice in the Room, pg 389, via Media Matters, 1/13/14]
- Posted In
- Diversity & Discrimination, Gender, Justice & Civil Liberties
- NBC News, Fox News Channel
- Gretchen Carlson, Roger Ailes, Steve Doocy, Bill O'Reilly, Gabriel Sherman
- CBS News, The Daily Beast, The Washington Post
- Sexual Harassment at Fox News