In early July of this year, Gretchen Carlson, former Fox & Friends Co-host at Fox News, filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against then-chairman Roger Ailes. Two months later, the network has agreed to pay Carlson $20 million in addition to making a “highly unusual public apology”. It went like this: “21st Century Fox is pleased to announce that it has settled Gretchen Carlson’s lawsuit. During her tenure at Fox News, Gretchen exhibited the highest standards of journalism and professionalism. She developed a loyal audience and was a daily source of information for many Americans. We are proud that she was part of the Fox News team. We sincerely regret and apologize for the fact that Gretchen was not treated with the respect and dignity that she and all of our colleagues deserve.”
In her lawsuit, Ms. Carlson expressed her concerns about the sexist atmosphere she endured from her colleagues on Fox & Friends and after complaining to Ailes he replied, “I think you and I should have had a sexual relationship a long time ago.” He also said, “Sometimes problems are easier to solve that way.” There were also comments about what he could do to help her career if she only looked upon his invitations favorably. Oh, and let’s not forget how he frequently ogled her and the comments he made about her figure. Initially, Ailes said Carlson’s “allegations are false” and that she only sued in retaliation for her contract not being renewed. Ms. Carlson, however, believes that her refusal of sexual advances led to retaliation that included a pay cut, a shift to a lower-profile afternoon show, and the lack of chances to conduct important interviews.
The sexual harassment problem at Fox News can be directed at Ailes, but also extended to the news station’s workplace culture. It was a culture where this type of sexual behavior was encouraged and protected. It was a culture where women felt pressured to participate in sexual activity with their superiors if they wanted to advance inside the company. It is now coming out that this is what women who worked at Fox News had to endure for the last 20 years.
The EEOC’s Task Force on sexual harassment is noted as saying, “Harassment in the workplace will not stop on its own – it’s on all of us to be part of the fight to stop workplace harassment. We cannot be complacent bystanders and expect our workplace cultures to change themselves.” As Ms. Carlson stated, after all was said and done, “All women deserve a dignified and respectful workplace in which talent, hard work and loyalty are recognized, revered and rewarded.” She further stated, “I’m ready to move on the next chapter of my life which I will redouble my efforts to empower women in the workplace.”