On CNN, New York's Sherman Details How "Fox News PR Machine" Will Fight Sexual Harassment Suit
Gabe Sherman: Ailes and Fox "Will Try To Discredit [Gretchen] Carlson's Claims And Any Of The Other Women's Claims Who Come Forward"
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From the July 10 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:
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BRIAN STELTER (HOST): There was also a major story about the media this week, about one of the most powerful men in media, Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes. This was a bombshell. Longtime Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson filing a lawsuit against Ailes on Wednesday, alleging pervasive sexual harassment by Ailes and claiming she was fired after refusing his sexual advances. Ailes is vehemently denying the allegations, saying they are, quote, "false," and that this is a, quote, "retaliatory suit for the network's decision not to renew her contract." Ailes is citing [Carlson's] relatively low ratings in the 2 p.m. hour as the reason for her dismissal. Lawyers for Ailes are also charging that Carlson violated her contract's arbitration clause. Now, Carlson's lawyers are contending that the other lawyers are just trying to keep this case out of the public eye. That she, quote, "never agreed to arbitrate anything and that she intends to fight for her right for a public jury trial." Carlson's lawyers also tell me and the other reporters who have been calling that other women, perhaps more than a dozen, have come forward with their own stories. Yesterday, New York magazine published accounts from six more women -- two of them on the record, four of them anonymously -- all alleging harassment by Ailes in the 1960s, '70s, and '80s. So what does this mean for Ailes? What could this mean for Fox News?
STELTER: Gabe, let me start with you and your most recent reporting. How would you summarize the allegations from Gretchen Carlson and from these women you interviewed on the phone?
GABRIEL SHERMAN: Well really what the allegations from the women I interviewed were over a 25-year period dating from the 1960s when Roger Ailes was a producer on the number one daytime show, The Mike Douglas Show, all the way through the late '80s when he was the top Republican political strategist in America, that he basically propositioned women for sexual favors in exchange for job opportunities.
STELTER: Did you find them to be credible? All six?
SHERMAN: To the women? Incredibly credible. I mean this is a story I've covered. It fit a pattern of behavior that I covered in my book. I interviewed them at length. These are stories that they did not even tell their families, their husbands, their children. I mean these are incredibly personal stories, and so for a lot of women they face shame and retribution for fear of speaking out. And I found them to be very credible.
STELTER: You've covered Ailes, you probably know what he's thinking right now, he might be thinking this is liberal media bias, that people are out to get him. How do you think personally he's going to handle this in the weeks and months to come?
SHERMAN: Well if history is a judge, his strategy is to go on the attack. I mean let's look at going back to 2004, when Andrea Mackris who accused Bill O'Reilly, Fox's highest profile talent, of sexual harassment. Fox News PR machine went on the attack, discredited her motives, said she was trying to seek money, extortion. So if history's a judge, Fox, and we already see a pushback, they will try to discredit Carlson's claims and any of the other women's claims who come forward. But what I think is important is not to get lost in the process, not to get lost in the strategy, and to really focus on these stories and these women who are taking a grave personal risk to their reputation by coming forward and challenging the most powerful man in the news business.