Gretchen Carlson Files Sexual Harassment Allegations Against Fox News CEO

Gretchen Carlson, former Fox News Channel anchor, filed a suit against chief executive Roger Ailes on Wednesday, claiming she was terminated after she denied his sexual advances and complained about sexual harassment at work.  Ailes replied in a statement denying all allegations and also claiming Carlson was prompted to file the lawsuit in retaliation for her contract not being renewed.  Carlson had worked at Fox for 11 years was abruptly fired on June 23.  According to Carlson, it was nine months earlier in a meeting with Ailes in which she addressed her feelings of discrimination.  During this meeting, Carlson claims that Ailes said, “you and I should have had a sexual relationship a long time ago.”  This is not the only comment the 50-year-old Carlson alleges Ailes made.  Carlson, named Miss American in1989, claims that the 76-year-old Ailes constantly gawked at her, made numerous comments about her legs, insisted she wear form fitting clothes to enhance her figure and also said she was sexy but “too much hard work.”

These allegations are not without consequence.  Ailes is one of the most dominant moguls in the media business and will, no doubt, put up a fight.  Ailes built the Fox News Channel from the ground up starting in the 1990s.  It has since become a top-rated television news network with a significant sway on politics.  It is a greatly lucrative network for its parent company, 21st Century Fox.  Carlson says that she was terminated as host of the morning show “Fox & Friends” in 2013.  This was followed by a pay cut with the transfer to a daytime slot.  Carlson alleges this is a result of her complaints about being sexually harassed.  One of her co-hosts from “Fox & Friends,” Steve Doocy, “had created a hostile work environment by regularly treating [her] in a sexist and condescending way” according to Carlson.  She goes on that Ailes’s response to these complaints was to condemn Carlson as a “man hater” who should learn to “get along with the boys.”  Her account also alleges that Ailes punished her by reducing the amount of political interviews she conducted and stopped her regular appearance on Bill O’Reilly’s prime-time program.  21st Century Fox made a statement saying it has full confidence in Alies and Doocy but they have launched a full investigation into the matter. 

Ailes noted that Carlson’s lawsuit “conveniently” came about once she was told Fox would not be renewing her contract due to poor ratings.  Carlson’s program, “The Real Story,” had the lowest ratings out of any other show on the network in June.  “Ironically, Fox News provided her with more on-air opportunities over her 11-year tenure than any other employer in the industry, for which she thanked me in her recent book,” said Ailes.  “This defamatory lawsuit is not only offensive, it is wholly without merit and will be defended vigorously.”  Doocy has not made a comment since the lawsuit was announced.  Nancy Erika Smith, Carlson’s lawyer, notes that Carlson’s complaints have been shared by other women at Fox as well.  Smith thinks Carlson has significant evidence and says, “I’m sure [Ailes] feels untouchable. I’m sure he feels that he’s gotten away with it all these years and he will continue to. What he’s going to find is that in America at least, and maybe around the world, the tide is turning on this kind of treatment of women.”  The lawsuit asks for an indefinite amount of payment for damages.  It was filed in New Jersey’s Bergen County.

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