Fox News’ “ongoing culture of sexual harassment, its recent payouts of tens of millions of dollars of hush money, and most egregiously, its role in ending the careers of women who complained has been well documented in American media,” and it reveals an “utter disregard for the rights of women,” according to attorney Lisa Bloom.
Bloom -- whose firm is well-known for representing clients who report sexual assault and sexual harassment by men in positions of power, including President Donald Trump -- now represents Wendy Walsh, a radio personality who says Fox News host Bill O’Reilly sexually harassed her in 2013.
Walsh shared her experience in the wake of an April 1 New York Times report revealing that O’Reilly and Fox News’ parent company, 21st Century Fox, have paid a total of about $13 million to avoid lawsuits pertaining to reports of sexual harassment and other misconduct by O’Reilly. Walsh’s account is the latest in a long timeline of reports of sexual harassment at Fox News that reveals a pattern of corporate retaliation, victim-blaming, and million- and million-plus-dollar payouts for silence extending far beyond O’Reilly or former Fox chairman Roger Ailes, who resigned last year after numerous women said that he had sexually harassed them. Activists, including Media Matters president Angelo Carusone, have spurred more than 80 U.S. advertisers to respond to the Times report about O’Reilly by pulling their ads from airing during the O’Reilly Factor time slot.
Bloom is now joining global activism group Avaaz in laying out the case for why this toxic workplace culture of sexual harassment, discrimination, and silence -- which has festered under the watch of 21st Century Fox owner Rupert Murdoch and his sons -- should disqualify the company from its bid to acquire British satellite broadcasting company Sky.
21st Century Fox struck a $22.9 billion deal to acquire Sky in December, but they have faced hurdles in getting clearance from British antitrust and media regulators. The U.K. media regulator Ofcom is now charged with reviewing 21st Century Fox and Murdoch’s stakes in British media, and it could “kill the deal if it decides that Murdoch and 21st Century Fox do not meet the standard of ‘fit and proper’ owners.” The standard, as CNN reports, is “broad” and includes consideration of “any relevant misconduct” on the part of Murdoch or the company -- such as, perhaps, his reported resistance to firing O’Reilly and 21st Century Fox’s long-term complicity in violating workplace protections for women and people of color.
Bloom sent a letter to Ofcom on April 11 detailing the company’s long history of sexual harassment and discrimination under Murdoch’s leadership, which the attorney noted had also spurred her to ask the New York State Division of Human Rights to “open an investigation into the toxic culture for women at Fox News.” New York City public advocate Letitia James has also called on the city’s Commission on Human Rights to investigate Fox for employment discrimination.
In her letter to Ofcom, Bloom wrote that 21st Century Fox’s silence and “utter disregard for the rights of women” reveal a “lack of oversight, intervention, and decency” at the company.
Read the full letter to Ofcom below, and Bloom’s dossier on Fox culture sent to the Division of Human Rights here.
Image at top by Dayanita Ramesh.