Sexual Harassment at Fox News

Tags ››› Sexual Harassment at Fox News
  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Murdoch Is Reportedly Advising Trump While DOJ Investigates Fox

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Fox News owner and CEO Rupert Murdoch is reportedly advising President Donald Trump on a near-daily basis at the same time as the Justice Department is investigating his company, an ethical breach that could undermine the credibility of the inquiry.

    The Justice Department is currently engaged in a wide-ranging investigation of Fox News. The inquiry includes a review of the network’s “settlements made with women who alleged sexual harassment by former Fox News boss Roger Ailes,” as well as “possible misconduct by Fox News personnel” over a period of years, and has grown to include the United States Postal Inspection Service, which has jurisdiction over some financial crimes, according to CNN.

    The investigation is complicated by the ongoing relationship between Murdoch and Trump. “The president speaks to Murdoch now almost every day,” with Murdoch advising Trump on an array of foreign and domestic policy issues, according to a report by The New York Times’ Maggie Haberman. According to Haberman, the Fox chief also regularly talks to Trump aide and son-in-law Jared Kushner.

    The situation raises questions about whether Trump or his subordinates are communicating with the Justice Department about the Fox investigation, according to Kathleen Clark, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis whose specialty is government ethics. “Are they monitoring or attempting to influence that investigation, or is DOJ able to act independently in its investigation of a company owned by a friend of the President?” she wrote in an email to Media Matters.

    “This [White House] isn't abiding by the same limits on WH-DOJ communications as previous administrations,” she added, pointing out that White House officials reportedly asked the FBI and other agencies in February to rebut media reports about communications between Russians and Trump associates. As CNN noted at the time, “Such a request from the White House is a violation of procedures that limit communications with the FBI on pending investigations.”

    Communications between the White House and the DOJ “regarding pending or potential criminal or civil investigations or cases” are restricted in order to maintain DOJ’s independence under a 2009 memorandum that is still in force.

    Trump and Murdoch have a long and complicated relationship that has metamorphosed as Trump rose to power and became potentially useful for Murdoch’s goal of expanding his media holdings.

    They have known each other for decades, but historically disliked one another, with Murdoch reportedly describing Trump as a “phony.” During early stages of the 2016 presidential campaign, Murdoch repeatedly criticized Trump’s comments about immigrants and reportedly pushed his media outlets to scrutinize the candidate.

    But once it became clear that Trump would be the GOP nominee, Murdoch turned Fox into an unrelenting pro-Trump propaganda outlet in order to ensure what New York magazine termed “an open line to the new administration” if Trump won. They also repeatedly met during and after the campaign.

    On Thursday, Murdoch introduced Trump as “my friend” during an event celebrating U.S.- Australian relations and commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea. In turn, Trump bragged about donating to the American Australian Association after entreaties from Murdoch, commenting: “Now I realize that was money well spent. That's right. Right, Rupert?”

    That friendship has been potentially lucrative for Murdoch’s media empire. Murdoch has for decades opposed federal regulations that aim to prevent the consolidation of too much media power in too few hands, and in Trump, he may have found a president willing to allow him to expand his empire even further.

    Soon after his election, Trump reportedly asked Murdoch for a list of potential nominees for Federal Communications Commission chairman. Trump’s selection, Ajit Pai, is a fierce opponent of the regulations that have capped the expansion of Murdoch’s companies. Pai’s FCC has already overturned an Obama-era rule that had blocked Murdoch’s Fox Television Stations from trying to buy Tribune Media’s 42 television stations. Further relaxing of regulations could allow Murdoch to purchase newspapers across the country as well.

    Fox News has previously been quick to decry the appearance of impropriety when investigations were both led by and targeted Democrats. During the 2016 presidential campaign, the network’s hosts and guests frequently suggested that President Barack Obama and Attorney General Loretta Lynch were refusing to prosecute Hillary Clinton for political reasons.

    “The president has made it quite clear to Attorney General Loretta Lynch that he, he does not want any prosecution of Hillary Clinton, or any investigation into the Clinton Foundation,” said Bill O’Reilly a week before Election Day. “Mrs. Lynch got the message.”

  • Report: Fox News Chief Spied On Women Who Spoke Out About Sexual Harassment At Fox, Including Gretchen Carlson

    Bo Dietl Reportedly Admits Digging Up Dirt On Gretchen Carlson And Andrea Mackris

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    According to a new report from The Wall Street Journal about the ongoing federal investigation into Fox News, Roger Ailes, who engaged in a pattern of sexual harassment against female Fox News employees and was forced to resign as president and CEO in July 2016, hired private investigator and former Fox contributor Bo Dietl to discredit the sexual harassment allegations made against himself and Bill O’Reilly. Dietl confirmed his involvement in an interview with the Journal.

    This revelation comes in the wake of significant ongoing turmoil at the network. Bill Shine, who was promoted to co-president of Fox News after Ailes’ departure, resigned after multiple reports named him as being complicit in burying sexual harassment complaints by helping to coordinate smear campaigns against women who came forward with reports. Shine has been replaced with Suzanne Scott, who was referenced in a racial discrimination lawsuit against the network, and has reportedly participated in Fox’s sexist culture and retaliation efforts against employees who reported sexual harassment. From The Wall Street Journal:

    Investigators are also looking at Mr. Ailes’s use of prominent private investigator Bo Dietl to probe the backgrounds of people perceived to be a threat to either Mr. Ailes or the channel, according to people familiar with the situation.

    Mr. Dietl said in an interview with the Journal that he was used by Fox News to look into the pasts of Ms. Carlson and Andrea Mackris, a former producer who sued Mr. O’Reilly for harassment in 2004 and received a $9 million settlement from Mr. O’Reilly. Mr. Dietl said he was hired to find information that could discredit the women’s claims.

    He said he had an investigator eavesdrop on Ms. Mackris’s conversations at an establishment, in an effort to show she wasn’t under duress from alleged harassment. A lawyer for Ms. Mackris didn’t respond to a call seeking comment.

  • This Is Who Fox News Has Chosen To Replace Ousted Co-President Bill Shine 

    ››› ››› DINA RADTKE & NINA MAST

    After Fox News co-president Bill Shine resigned following revelations about his reported role in enabling and covering up the extent of the sexual harassment problem at his network, Fox News announced that he would be replaced in part by executive vice president Suzanne Scott. Scott has been referenced in a racial discrimination lawsuit against the network, has reportedly taken part in enforcing the network’s sexist culture, and allegedly assisted in retaliation campaigns against employees who reported sexual harassment.
     

  • Angelo Carusone Statement On Bill Shine Resigning As Co-President Of Fox News

    Media Matters President: "To Truly Remedy Its Culture Of Harassment, Fox News Also Needs To Change Its Attitude About Women"

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Media Matters president Angelo Carusone released the following statement after Fox News co-president Bill Shine, a long-time Roger Ailes ally, resigned from the network. Shine’s departure comes just two weeks after Fox News was forced to fire Bill O’Reilly when advertisers boycotted his show because of reports of serial sexual harassment:

    The departure of Bill Shine proves what women at Fox News, Media Matters and others have been saying from the beginning: that the epidemic of sexual harassment at Fox News was not limited to the actions of a few well-known figures -- and that instead it was indicative of a deeper culture of harassment. That culture was cultivated by Roger Ailes -- and perpetuated and maintained by Fox News executives, like Bill Shine. What took so long?

    I’ll repeat what I said when Fox News fired O’Reilly: Fox News deserves no accolades for this action, only scorn for the industrial scale harassment the network forced its employees to endure.

    The Murdochs and 21st Century Fox had no intention of firing Bill Shine or addressing Fox News’ sexual harassment until forced. Even today Rupert Murdoch refused to criticize Shine, let alone fire him. With O’Reilly, it was advertisers leaving. With Bill Shine, it appears that they didn’t want his apparent malfeasance and their neglect to interfere with their efforts to take over Sky News in the U.K. and Tribune Media in the United States.

    Carusone added,

    Also, this doesn’t fix Fox News’ harassment problem. It’s just the most basic accountability the network could have delivered. All you need to do is watch 30 minutes of Fox News’ programming and you can see that harassment of women goes hand in hand with the right-wing ideology at the network’s core. To truly remedy its culture of harassment, Fox News also needs to change its attitude about women.

    Bill Shine was promoted to co-president after former president and CEO Roger Ailes’ ouster in August 2016 over repeated sexual harassment complaints and lawsuits.

    Shine has been described as Ailes’ “right-hand man,” and according to New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman, Shine “played a role in rallying the women to speak out against Roger Ailes’ accusers and lead this counter-narrative to try to say don't believe Gretchen Carlson.” Shine was also referenced in various lawsuits against the network for his “complicity”.