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(As A Liar And Enabler Who Hurt Women)
“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.
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As the news broke that longtime Fox News chief Roger Ailes had died this morning at age 77, the network’s on-air personalities immediately moved to secure his place in history.
Ailes “changed television as we know it,” in the words of Bret Baier. He “founded one of the most important and successful media outlets in American history,” as Laura Ingraham put it. He “dramatically and forever changed the political and the media landscape singlehandedly for the better,” according to Sean Hannity. "Many people out there would say that he saved this country by starting the Fox News Channel," Ainsley Earhardt said on Fox & Friends.
Fox’s efforts to use Ailes’ death to rehabilitate his reputation, and burnish the network’s, are ham-handed and self-serving. We can have empathy for the loved ones Ailes leaves behind without forgetting who he was and what he stood for.
Ailes was a monster who was pushed out of the network he founded because dozens of women who had worked for him came forward and reported that he had sexually harassed them. And the legacy he leaves behind is a propaganda machine he created in his own image that has done incalculable damage to the country, slanting facts and information -- and sometimes completely inventing them -- in service of a vicious, right-wing agenda.
“At Fox, Ailes has ushered in the era of post-truth politics,” Media Matters for America founder David Brock wrote in a 2012 book about the network. “The facts no longer matter, only what is politically expedient, sensationalistic, and designed to confirm the preexisting opinions of a large audience.” Now that focus on “alternative facts” is an overarching theme of the presidency of the man Ailes helped put in office.
In Fox News, Ailes found a way to exacerbate and monetize the conservative movement’s paranoid opposition to the “liberal media,” turning millions of Americans into devoted followers who were inculcated to trust no other source of information. Mainstream outlets soon internalized his critique, forced by constant accusations of bias to elevate hackish conservative commentators and provide false balance.
Under the slogan of “Fair and Balanced,” the former GOP operative built an unparalleled Republican communications apparatus that smeared progressives while openly campaigning for GOP candidates and causes and serving as a staging ground for the party’s politicians between runs.
Ailes saw political opponents as enemies and created a network that demanded the same behavior of conservative politicians. Fox brought political vitriol to a new level. Chasing the approval of Fox’s hosts and its audience, Republican politicians became ever more partisan and intransigent, making congressional bipartisanship and even collegiality a thing of the past.
He was a bigot, with well-documented prejudices against people of color, Muslims, women, and LGBTQ people. The network he created ran on division and hatred, consumed by an unslaked thirst to oppress the oppressed and comfort the comfortable.
He was a conspiracy theorist, and so were the hosts he hired, channeling ridiculous accusations from fringe websites to the masses, creating for their audience an alternate reality in which dark liberal forces were ever ready to steal away their freedom.
Over the last two years, his network has been devoted to propagandizing on behalf of Donald Trump, an Ailes friend who shared his bigotry, misogyny, and spite.
For power and money, Ailes turned Americans against one another. He made the nation a meaner, less informed place. That is his legacy.
Politico Magazine reported that figures within President Donald Trump’s inner circle, Roger Stone and Stephen Bannon, helped former Fox News chief Roger Ailes monitor and smear his adversaries, a practice Ailes engaged in for years.
Bannon, the former head of Breitbart who now serves as Trump's chief strategist, has a history of using his online platform to launch smear campaigns against his political opponents, including helping Breitbart staffer Peter Schweizer push the widely debunked Clinton Cash. Breitbart has also proved to be combative without Bannon at the helm, even going after Trump’s son-in-law to defend Bannon.
Stone, a long time Trump ally and former campaign staffer has a history of racist, misogynistic, and conspiratorial commentary. Stone is also under investigation for possible ties to Russia after law enforcement and intelligence officials “intercepted communications” between Stone and Russian officials.
Ailes left Fox News in 2016 after Gretchen Carlson and several other women who worked there said he had sexually harassed them. While at the network’s helm, Ailes had a history of spying on his employees and smearing his adversaries.
According to a Politico Magazine report Stone “was paid for off-air work that included keeping tabs on [New York magazine’s Gabriel] Sherman and publicly criticizing Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy” while Bannon “coordinated with Fox in Breitbart’s publication of negative stories about Sherman.” From the May 14 Politico Magazine report:
The network of operatives allegedly used by Ailes and other Fox executives to monitor and demean perceived threats also extends to Trump’s inner circle, according to several people with knowledge of those relationships. Trump’s longtime confidant Stone, a veteran practitioner of political dark arts, was paid for off-air work that included keeping tabs on Sherman and publicly criticizing Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy, according to three people familiar with the arrangement.
“Stone would just write public articles when Ailes told him,” one of those people explained. In a March 2015 article for the Daily Caller, Stone accused Ruddy of being “in bed with the Clintons.” In an April 2015 piece for the publication, Stone attacked Ruddy for criticizing a Fox News special about the Clintons.
Stone said that his paid work for Fox consisted of writing Ailes “a shitload” of strategy memos about attracting more libertarian viewers and that his broadsides against Ruddy were motivated by anger over Ruddy’s donations to the Clinton Foundation, not monetary inducements.
Ailes’ lawyer said her client was unaware of any paid work performed by Stone. “Roger doesn’t know anything about payments to Mr. Stone, and believes the allegations are untrue,” she wrote in an email.
But three people familiar with the arrangement said Stone was also paid to keep tabs on Sherman as he worked on his biography of the Fox News chief. Stone said he was not paid to monitor Sherman but instead was motivated by friendship to act as a liaison between the two. “I would try to keep the two of them from killing each other because they’re both friends of mine,” he said. “They became obsessed with each other. It was really unhealthy. I think Gabe’s a great journalist. I think Roger Ailes is a genius.”
The network of allies Ailes employed to neutralize threats also extends into the White House itself, according to three people familiar with the situation who said White House chief strategist Steve Bannon coordinated with Fox in Breitbart’s publication of negative stories about Sherman.
In the weeks before the release of Sherman’s biography, 2014’s “The Loudest Voice in the Room,” Bannon huddled inside a Fox News conference room with Ailes, Ailes’ personal attorney Peter Johnson Jr., pollster Pat Caddell and former Fox journalist Peter Boyer to discuss discrediting the book, according to two people familiar with the meetings. (None of the participants would comment on the record.) True to form, Bannon advocated an all-out “go to war” approach during these sessions, while Boyer advised a hands-off approach, according to one of those people. Bannon described the resulting attacks on Sherman as “love taps,” according to an acquaintance he later told about the meetings.
There is no indication that Bannon was paid to do this, though at the time he enjoyed a symbiotic relationship with Fox, which promoted his conservative documentaries. Ailes’ lawyer said that Breitbart’s coverage of Sherman was taken of its own initiative. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer did not respond to requests for comment on this story.
Bannon has also collaborated with Jim Pinkerton, a former Fox News contributor who for years authored the anonymous blog “The Cable Game” to tout Fox and attack its rivals on behalf of Ailes.
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Bo Dietl Reportedly Admits Digging Up Dirt On Gretchen Carlson And Andrea Mackris
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.
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.
Media Matters President: "To Truly Remedy Its Culture Of Harassment, Fox News Also Needs To Change Its Attitude About Women"
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.
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”.
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Seven more African-American Fox News employees are expected to join two black colleagues who are suing the network for racial harassment from former comptroller Judy Slater and accounting director Tammy Efinger, according to a new report from New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman.
This escalation in Fox’s legal troubles comes amid longtime host Bill O’Reilly’s ouster due to multiple sexual harassment allegations and an adviser exodus from his show, and Fox owner Rupert Murdoch’s bid to take over British satellite broadcasting company Sky News -- which threatens British broadcasting standards thanks to the toxic corporate culture exposed by allegations of widespread sexual and racial harassment at Murdoch’s key American TV network. It also comes as the explicit sexism and racism of Fox News continues to fester, with the leadership of Fox now under Bill Shine, a man who helped cover up harassment at the network by former chairman and CEO Roger Ailes.
The network was originally forced to fire Slater after she made racist comments to co-workers. According to The New York Times, the original lawsuit from a Fox payroll manager and payroll coordinator alleges they were racially harassed with “racially charged comments” from Slater, “including suggestions that black men were ‘women beaters’ and that black people wanted to physically harm white people.” The lawsuit alleged, “Slater’s superiors did little to address her behavior, which created a hostile work environment that resulted in ‘severe and pervasive discrimination and harassment.’”
New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman reported in an April 23 piece that seven other black employees plan to join this racial discrimination lawsuit. According to lawyers representing the affected employees, “Not once did Ms. Efinger step in or attempt to interfere with Ms. Slater’s outrageous conduct," instead “laugh[ing] or giggl[ing] following Ms. Slater’s vitriol.” The letter also details new racist, Jim Crow-era behavior from Fox’s accounting department, such as forcing the black employees to have “‘arm wrestling matches’ with white female employees in [Slater’s] office.” In an appearance discussing his report on MSNBC’s AM Joy, Sherman said these new descriptions of racist behavior at Fox “are really evident of a culture that is entrenched and that has not changed in the wake of Bill O'Reilly's departure.” From the report:
The Murdochs hoped firing Bill O’Reilly would signal a changing culture at Fox News. “We want to underscore our consistent commitment to fostering a work environment built on the values of trust and respect,” Rupert and his sons, James and Lachlan, wrote in a memo to Fox News employees on Wednesday. But the dismissal of Fox News’s highest rated host isn’t going to end the crisis at the network. The toxic culture, fostered for 20 years by former CEO Roger Ailes, is proving far more difficult to remedy.
Next week, according to sources, seven black Fox News employees plan to join a racial discrimination suit filed last month by two colleagues. The original lawsuit alleged that Fox News’s longtime comptroller, Judy Slater, subjected members of Fox’s payroll staff to racial insults for years. (Fox News fired Slater in February after those employees began litigation against the network.)
Lawyers representing the payroll employees are demanding that Fox’s accounting director, Tammy Efinger, also be removed from supervising an employee because she allegedly participated in Slater’s racist behavior. In a letter to the network’s lawyers obtained by New York, the attorneys state: “Not once did Ms. Efinger step in or attempt to interfere with Ms. Slater’s outrageous conduct.” The letter adds, instead, “Ms. Efinger chose to laugh or giggle following Ms. Slater’s vitriol.”
According to the plaintiffs’ attorneys, Slater demanded that black employees hold “arm wrestling matches’” with white female employees in her office, just down the hall from Ailes’s office on the 2nd floor of Fox headquarters. “Forcing a black woman employee to ‘fight’ for the amusement and pleasure of her white superiors is horrifying. This highly offensive and humiliating act is reminiscent of Jim Crow era battle royals,” the letter says, referring to the practice of paying black men to fight blindfolded at carnivals for white spectators’ entertainment. The lawyers argue that Efinger bragged about wanting to “fight” a black employee.
Shine Continues At The Helm Despite Reports That He Helped Cover Up Sexual Harassment At The Network
It took years of sexual harassment reports, millions of dollars in non-disclosure agreements, and a successful advertisers boycott, but Bill O’Reilly was finally fired from Fox News. But his ousting cannot be taken as indicative of a major culture shift within the network as long as current co-president of Fox News Bill Shine continues to be at the helm. As senior executive vice president, Shine reportedly retaliated against women who reported sexual harassment by former-CEO Roger Ailes and helped participate in covering up the reports that eventually led to Ailes’ ouster.
After Ailes was fired in August 2016, the network swiftly promoted Shine and Fox executive Jack Abernethy as co-presidents. In September, Fox announced that Shine had signed a new multi-year contract with the network, saying the deal guaranteed "stability and leadership to help guide the network for years to come.” Shine, however, has been named in various lawsuits against the network for his “complicity,” and it has previously been reported that Shine played a key role in helping cover up Ailes’ conduct by silencing and “smearing” women who complained.
According to New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman, Shine aided Ailes in handling Laurie Luhn, a woman who reported Ailes for sexual and psychological harassment, by checking her into hotels in different cities after she suffered a mental breakdown and monitoring her outgoing emails. Former Fox host Andrea Tantaros named Shine as a defendant in her sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit against Fox News and Roger Ailes. According to Tantaros’ lawsuit, she met with Shine to discuss “relief from Ailes’ sexual harassment and [Executive Vice President Irena] Briganti’s retaliatory media vendetta against her," but Shine “told her that Ailes was a ‘very powerful man’ and that she ‘needed to let this one go.’” Fox News contributor Julie Roginsky also named Shine in a lawsuit against Ailes, in which she said Shine was complicit in “Ailes’ harassment and of punishing her for raising the issue.”
Shine, who has been described as Ailes’ “right-hand man,” has reportedly “pushed women into confidential mediation, signing nondisclosure agreements in exchange for their contracts to be paid,” which is consistent with the recent New York Times reporting about five women who “received payouts from either Mr. O’Reilly or the company in exchange for agreeing to not pursue litigation or speak about their accusations.” The payouts amount to “about $13 million.” According to 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.” NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik corroborated such reporting in a tweet, writing, “Some within Fox News tell me programming/opinion EVP Bill Shine, an Ailes confidant, knew of misconduct & ensuing complaints by women.”
If Fox wants people to believe that they’re trying to improve the culture at the network, Shine should be the next one to leave.