NY Times' Emily Steel: Sexual Harassment Culture Lingers At Fox Even Without Roger Ailes

Steel: Women At Fox “Feel Like There Is This Aura Of Suspicion Around Them” Even Though “It's Nine Months Since Ailes Was Ousted”

From the April 9 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:

BRIAN STELTER (HOST): David, you reported on Friday that women inside Fox News have some conflicted emotions about this topic, some concern that [Bill] O'Reilly remains in his job. Tell us about that reporting and how widespread that view is.
DAVID FOLKENFLIK: Well I've got to say, among some women, among some men as well, there is not particularly conflicted feelings about this. There is a degree of contempt towards O'Reilly -- the fact he's been able to continue on. Fox and the Murdoch family made a big show saying the culture is changing, we've gotten rid of Roger Ailes after Gretchen Carlson's lawsuit last summer, “we're changing the way the place is run” and yet, as you put it, I think quite compellingly, the marquee show on Fox News, in prime-time every night, Bill O'Reilly -- a man who's been accused multiple times, serially, of sexually harassing colleagues is there in place. 21st Century Fox, the parent company, the Murdoch family says, “we've talked to Bill O'Reilly, he's assured us he's committed to having a good workplace for folks.” But, folks at the network are -- some of them feel some contempt for O'Reilly and how he's behaved and also skepticism, that among some veers toward cynicism, toward how the Murdoch family, which controls 21st Century Fox, has addressed this.
STELTER: Talking about the Murdochs -- Emily, is the strategy just silence? We haven't really heard much from the company this week.
EMILY STEEL: That's what we've seen publicly, so far. We haven't heard anything more from Bill O'Reilly except the statement he put out last week. We haven't heard anything more from the parent company.
STELTER: To be clear, O'Reilly said last week these claims are meritless and the company said we've talked to O'Reilly about this, the company suggesting they moved on. But what are you hearing from inside Fox?
STEEL: That's really a big question that we are continuing to ask and continuing to pursue. One thing that is in the same vein as what David has reported is that women inside Fox are upset about this. People just want to do their job. That's why they are there, and they feel like there is this aura of suspicion around them -- at least some of the women that I've talked to, that either they are complicit in this behavior or that they're suffering in silence and it's very interesting because it's nine months since Ailes was ousted from the network and these questions continue to linger.
STELTER: When you look at the ratings for O'Reilly's show, they were either flat or slightly up in the past week. No damage, it seemed, among his viewership.
STEEL: Right, and he has a very loyal audience, a very loyal fan base. And we actually sent a reporter out to watch The O'Reilly Factor with some O'Reilly Factor viewers and our reporter watched the show with a woman who is a big fan of that show, and she said that she was conflicted about watching it, but she's still loyal to him and to his show.
STELTER: So if he doesn't have top advertisers, David, but he does have his audience. Does that mean he's invincible?
FOLKENFLIK: I think he's damaged but he's not necessarily mortally wounded. It really depends on whether or not there is sustained public outrage, whether the advertising pullback occurs -- not only against his show, but Fox has been able to place almost all of those advertisers on other shows and sort of do make-goods -- whether or not that spreads to other shows, as well.
STELTER: The company says, to be clear, “No financial impact from this ad boycott.”
FOLKENFLIK: Well, and that's the real question. If BMW, if Mercedes says we're not going to advertise on Fox News writ large, that becomes a much bigger issue, if there's a pullback from the network.
STELTER: Or beyond Fox News, the Fox Broadcast Network and to be clear, we haven't seen that happening, but I wonder if it could spread that far.
FOLKENFLIK: I don't think that's the way it works. I think that you'd have to see almost a wildfire throughout the country over this issue for that to occur. I do think that Rupert Murdoch is overseeing the network right now and he sees himself as a guy who sort of defies public backlash, that he says nobody is going to tell me to do what I do when I do it up until the moment he absolutely has to. I think you saw that with Roger Ailes, and they cut him off to try to cauterize the wound, and it turns out the culture, at least as these allegations that we've seen suggest, may be deeper than that. So women at the network say, “are we somehow viewed, tainted in our professions if we behaved perfectly appropriately, because somehow people think that we have given in to certain kinds of harassment like this.” Other women there say, the top stars can't have this and yet there is at its core, among particularly the leadership at Fox, a desire to say people aren't going to force us to do things differently than we want to do them. I think you see that with Bill Shine, Diane Brandy, and others.
STELTER: Fox does not react to public pressure or to peer pressure the way other companies do. Emily, last word.
STEEL: One interesting point though, is sexual harassment is against the law. You are not supposed to treat women like this in the work force. And whether these are allegations, whether they are believed or not, this is an important issue and women deserve to be treated with respect in the workplace.
FOLKENFLIK: Additionally, there's right now a federal investigation going on -- I believe you mentioned it earlier -- into whether or not payments to some of these women settlements to keep their allegations private and away from public eye were somehow masked to keep them also away from the company's shareholders and investors, which could itself be a violation of federal law.


The Sexual Harassment Crisis Is Bigger Than Just Bill O'Reilly

The Sexual Harassment At Fox As Reported By The Press Throughout The Years

O'Reilly Scandal Proves That Sex Predators Stick Together

The “New Leadership” At Fox News Is Still Imposing A Culture Of Sexual Harassment