Gretchen Carlson, a former Fox News Channel host, says she was fired by the cable news network and has filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against its chairman and CEO, Roger Ailes. Carlson, who co-hosted the “Fox & Friends” program until 2013, contends in her complaint that she was dismissed by the network when her contract expired on 23 June 2016 because she had “refused to sleep” with Ailes and had “reported disparaging treatment in the newsroom”:
Ailes has unlawfully retaliated against Carlson and sabotaged her career because she refused his sexual advances and complained about severe and pervasive sexual harassment. When Carlson met with Ailes to discuss the discriminatory treatment to which she was being subjected, Ailes stated: ‘I think you and I should have had a sexual relationship a long time ago and then you’d be good and better and I’d be good and better,’ adding that ‘sometimes problems are easier to solve’ that way.”
Fox News is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox but controlled by Roger Ailes, a former media consultant to President Nixon who launched the network in 1996. Fox News is far and away the most popular cable news channel, with a prime time line-up that includes popular conservative talk show hosts such as Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly.
According to Carlson’s complaint, she complained to her supervisor in September 2009 that Steve Doocy, one of her co-hosts on “Fox & Friends,” had created “a hostile work environment by regularly treating her in a sexist and condescending way, including by putting his hand on her and pulling down her arm to shush her during a live broadcast.” But after learning of Carlson’s complaints, Ailes allegedly mocked her by telling her to stop taking offense “so God damned easy,” called her a “man hater” and “killer,” and told her she needed to “learn to get along with the boys.”
Carlson asserts that after she lodged her sexual harassment complaints, she was punished through receiving fewer prestigious assignments, seeing her regular weekly appearances on the “The O’Reilly Factor” ended, and being removed the from “Fox & Friends” panel.
Carlson’s complaint also contents that Ailes engaged in other harassing activities, such as “Ogling Carlson in his office and asking her to turn around so he could view her posterior”; “commenting that certain outfits enhanced Carlson’s figure and urging her to wear them every day”; “commenting repeatedly about Carlson’s legs”; and “lamenting that marriage was ‘boring,’ ‘hard,’ and ‘not much fun.’”
Carlson is seeking compensatory damages, damages for mental anguish, punitive damages, attorneys’ fees and “reimbursement for negative tax consequences resulting from a jury verdict” on this case.
FOX News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes responded to the announcement of Carlson’s lawsuit with the following statement:
Gretchen Carlson’s allegations are false. This is a retaliatory suit for the network’s decision not to renew her contract, which was due to the fact that her disappointingly low ratings were dragging down the afternoon lineup. When Fox News did not commence any negotiations to renew her contract, Ms. Carlson became aware that her career with the network was likely over and conveniently began to pursue a lawsuit. 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. This defamatory lawsuit is not only offensive, it is wholly without merit and will be defended vigorously.