Roger Ailes

Tags ››› Roger Ailes
  • Report: Fox Executives Knew, Covered Up Roger Ailes’ Predatory Sexual Harassment For Over 20 Years

    Former Fox Booker Laurie Luhn: Ailes Required “Luring Young Female Fox Employees Into One-On-One Situations”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman reported that a former Fox News booking director claims to have been sexually harassed by Roger Ailes “for more than 20 years,” Fox executives helped cover it up, and a settlement document she signed with the network “precludes her from speaking to government authorities like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the FBI. Not to mention the press.”

    Sherman wrote about the former booking director's experience working for Fox and being “psychologically tortured” by Ailes and the network. Laurie Luhn explained that during her time at Fox as a booking director, she was “required [] to do many things she is now horrified by, including luring young female Fox employees into one-on-one situations with Aies that Luhn knew could result in harassment.” Luhn also recounted her own sexual harassment from Ailes and how the network settled with her on the conditions of an “extensive nondisclosure” agreement which prevented Luhn from taking the network to court: :

    The morning after Fox News chief Roger Ailes resigned, the cable network’s former director of booking placed a call to the New York law firm hired by 21st Century Fox to investigate sexual-harassment allegations against Ailes. Laurie Luhn told the lawyers at Paul, Weiss that she had been harassed by Ailes for more than 20 years, that executives at Fox News had known about it and helped cover it up, and that it had ruined her life. “It was psychological torture,” she later told me.

    […]

    In late 2010 or early 2011, Luhn said, she wrote a letter to Fox lawyer Dianne Brandi saying she had been sexually harassed by Ailes for 20 years. Brandi did not acknowledge receipt of the letter, but, according to a source, she asked Ailes about the sexual-harassment allegations, which he vehemently denied. Ailes, according to the source, told Brandi to work out a settlement. Luhn hired an attorney to negotiate her exit from Fox. Through a spokesperson, Brandi declined to comment.

    On June 15, 2011, Luhn and Brandi signed a $3.15 million settlement agreement with extensive nondisclosure provisions. The settlement document, which Luhn showed me, bars her from going to court against Fox for the rest of her life. It also precludes her from speaking to government authorities like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the FBI. Not to mention the press. Aware that speaking with New York on the record could pose legal risks, Luhn was insistent that she wanted to tell her story. “The truth shall set you free. Nothing else matters,” she told me. Her family friend also said this is what Luhn wanted.

  • Gretchen Carlson: Fox News Employees Who Defended Ailes “Should Have Known Better”

    Blog ››› ››› OLIVER WILLIS

    Former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson, whose sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit led to Roger Ailes’ recent exit from the network, told The Washington Post in an interview that she was “angry that it took so long” for Ailes to be pushed out. Carlson also said that Fox News employees who publicly defended Ailes “should have known better.”

    Earlier this month, Carlson filed a lawsuit alleging that Ailes fired her after she declined his sexual advances. Since then, an additional 25 women have come forward to allege harassment by Ailes, according to Carlson’s attorney. Ailes biographer Gabriel Sherman reported that Fox News host Megyn Kelly told investigators that Ailes had harassed her as well. On July 19, it was reported that Ailes would leave Fox News as a result of the allegations and an internal investigation; he resigned two days later.

    In an interview with Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan, Carlson said her reaction to Ailes’ dismissal was, “At first, satisfaction -- or no, I think validation” and that she “felt angry that it took so long.” She also noted, “It’s complicated — there was relief that now I would be believed — and I was happy to a certain extent over that.”

    When asked about reports that Kelly came forward to speak about Ailes, Carlson said, “I appreciated that she told the truth, and I know it was risky.” Sullivan writes that Carlson was also “disturbed by the public statements of some Fox News women and men who came forward in the first few days to say glowing things about Ailes’s character.”

    Carlson said, “Some of them were lawyers. They should have known better, so I was surprised. It was like, ‘Wow, you have no idea what you’re talking about’,” adding, “But I was at Fox a long time. I know how it works. You could sense that it all was orchestrated.” (Fox News has a notoriously ruthless PR department that often targets people critical of the network.) From Sullivan’s article:

    But when I asked her how she felt as she watched Roger Ailes — perhaps the most powerful media figure in America — step down as Fox News chief only two weeks after she had sued him for sexual harassment, she searched for the right description.

    “At first, satisfaction, or no, I think validation,” she told me Wednesday. And then, she said, a new round of emotion came rushing in over the sexual harassment she says she endured while working for Ailes. “I felt angry that it took so long.”

    “It’s complicated — there was relief that now I would be believed — and I was happy to a certain extent over that.”

    […]

    “I appreciated that she told the truth, and I know it was risky,” Carlson said, but she disagreed that Kelly’s statements made all the difference. It was “the multitude of women” who started to come forward, creating a critical mass that could no longer be ignored.

    […]

    Conversely, she was disturbed by the public statements of some Fox News women and men who came forward in the first few days to say glowing things about Ailes’s character, suggesting that he could never have engaged in sexual harassment.

    “Some of them were lawyers. They should have known better, so I was surprised. It was like, ‘Wow, you have no idea what you’re talking about,” she said. “But I was at Fox a long time. I know how it works. You could sense that it all was orchestrated.”

  • NY Times: After Ailes’ Departure, An “Icy” Split Inside Fox News

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    The New York Times reported that following the departure of Fox News CEO Roger Ailes amid a sexual harassment lawsuit, “there is a continuing split inside the network” between “one camp of old-guard Fox News loyalists” who are defending Ailes -- and are “resentful” toward those “cooperating with lawyers” -- and “another contingent” who are “dismayed” by Ailes’ defenders.  

    Earlier this month, former Fox host Gretchen Carlson filed a lawsuit that alleged Roger Ailes fired her from the network after she declined his sexual advances. Since Carlson’s lawsuit, an additional 25 women came forward to make similar claims, including Fox host Megyn Kelly. On July 19, media reported that Ailes would leave Fox News as a result of the allegations, which has created a rift within the network that Fox media analyst Howard Kurtz called “painful and embarrassing.”

    In a July 27 article, Times reporters Michael M. Grynbaum and Emily Steel, reported that “nearly a dozen Fox News employees” described an “icy” atmosphere amid the “continuing split inside the network.” The explained the split as between two camps. One of which is a “camp of old-guard Fox News loyalists” who are upset at Ailes’ “ouster” and are “resentful toward [network anchor Megyn] Kelly for cooperating with lawyers brought in by the network’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, to investigate Mr. Ailes’s behavior.” The other is “dismayed by the responses of stars like Kimberly Guilfoyle, Greta Van Susteren and Jeanine Pirro, who were quick to publicly defend Mr. Ailes after he was accused of harassment.” From the article: 

    The Fox News skybox here turns into a hive of activity as the network’s star anchors analyze the Democratic National Convention for millions of viewers.

    When the cameras blink off, however, the banter has been replaced by something rarely heard in the television news business: silence.

    Megyn Kelly and her co-hosts, including Bret Baier and Brit Hume, have not been speaking during commercial breaks, according to two people with direct knowledge of the anchors’ interactions, who described the on-set atmosphere at Fox News as icy. During ads, the hosts are often absorbed with their smartphones.

    Even as Fox News goes about broadcasting as usual, scoring its highest convention ratings in 20 years, interviews this week with network employees show an organization grappling with internal division after the abrupt exit of Roger Ailes, the once-omnipotent chairman at the center of a sexual harassment investigation.

    Nearly a dozen Fox News employees, who work in front of and behind the camera, were granted anonymity to speak candidly about highly sensitive matters inside a network where privacy is still prized.

    The hosts’ on-set interactions have improved slightly since last week’s shows at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, which were broadcast immediately after Mr. Ailes’s departure.

    Still, employees say there is a continuing split inside the network, with one camp of old-guard Fox News loyalists — some of whom owe their careers to Mr. Ailes — upset at his ouster. Some are resentful toward Ms. Kelly for cooperating with lawyers brought in by the network’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, to investigate Mr. Ailes’s behavior.

  • Forbes Highlights Roger Ailes’ Use Of “Sex Appeal” And “Objectification Of Women” To Boost Fox News’ Ratings

    Forbes, Citing Former Fox Anchor, Reports Ailes Stipulated Female Contributor “Remain A Size Four”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Former Fox News president Roger Ailes exploited female employees' “sex appeal” and instituted a “culture of objectification of women” to boost ratings, according to Forbes. Reportedly among the “sexually charged culture fostered by Ailes” was a condition in a female Fox contributor's contract that “required her to remain a size four.”

    Ailes had a long and sordid history of rampant sexism and misogyny during his time as Fox News’ chief. Since former Fox host Gretchen Carlson filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Ailes, dozens of women have reportedly come forward to make claims of similar harassment.

    Amid fallout from the allegations and Ailes’ ouster, media reports unearthed a culture of sexual harassment and intimidation at Fox that went beyond Ailes and suggested a “broader problem in the workplace.”

    Forbes’ Madeline Berg, citing “former Fox employees,” wrote that Ailes “fostered” a “sexually charged culture” at Fox News that rested upon the “objectification of women” and “sex appeal.” Ailes frequently relied on showing “a thin blonde, often large-chested, invariably heavily made up, wearing a fitted and brightly colored dress or skirt, visible through the transparent desk” as a “formula for boosting ratings,” according to the article. Berg quoted a “former anchor” who said a female contributor “claimed her contract required her to remain a size four,” and a "former producer" who said "skirts were a 'requirement'" for female employees. From the July 27 Forbes article:

    These “second floor” recommendations reflect one of many examples of the sexually charged culture fostered by Ailes at Fox News and Fox Business News, the two networks he created and ran for the parent company 21st Century Fox.

    Following a lawsuit filed against Ailes earlier this month by former anchor Gretchen Carlson alleging sexual harassment and retaliation, FORBES spoke to a number of former Fox employees to get a sense of what went on behind the scenes during the Ailes era.

    21st Century Fox declined to comment on the story. Representatives for Ailes did not respond to requests for comments. But the former employees, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, described a culture of objectification of women and an unwillingness to stand up to superiors, including the authoritarian and god-like Ailes, who earned an extraordinary degree of autonomy from his notoriously hands-on boss, media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, due to the unprecedented success he brought to 21st Century Fox.

    [...]

    One part of Ailes’ formula for boosting ratings: sex appeal.

    A look at almost any show on the network often shows a thin blonde, often large-chested, invariably heavily made up, wearing a fitted and brightly colored dress or skirt, visible through the transparent desk.

    [...]

    A former anchor recalled a contributor who claimed her contract required her to remain a size four—very thin, especially considering she was 5’9’’.

    And a former contributor and guest host said that he even knew female anchors who chose to wore (sic) waterbras to enhance their cleavage due to pressure to look a certain way.

  • Trump Says He “Would Think About” Hiring Disgraced Former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes To Work On Campaign

    Trump: Ailes Is A “Very Capable Guy,” And “A Friend Of Mine”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    Donald Trump “would think about” hiring disgraced ex-Fox CEO Roger Ailes, who was forced to resign following a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by former Fox host Gretchen Carlson. Following the announcement of Carlson’s lawsuit, dozens of women have come forward to allege sexual misconduct by Ailes going back decades.

    Despite the allegations, which include sexual harassment that was “encouraged and protected” at Fox News under Ailes, Trump praised Ailes and described him as “a friend of mine” and “very capable”:

    There have been all sorts of rumors about Roger Ailes potentially helping the Donald Trump campaign now that he’s out as Fox News Chairman & CEO, and Trump himself isn’t discounting the idea.

    In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Trump said, “You know, Roger’s been a friend of mine for a long time and he’s done an incredible job … but nobody has actually — Roger has never mentioned it to me at all.”

    That being said, Trump admitted he “would think about it.” He praised Ailes as a “Roger very capable guy and he’s a friend of mine.”

    [h/t Mediaite]

  • Why The Murdochs Have To Clean House At Fox News

    Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

    Butts being grabbed, women being kissed against their will, female employees being ogled at work, promotions being offered in exchange for sex, and the looming threat of being fired for anyone who complained about the degrading harassment.

    Is it just me, or does the recent ugly portrait of Fox News these days in the wake of Roger Ailes’ departure amidst allegations of sexual harassment sound more like a caricature of a sexist work environment at a record company in the 1970s than it does at a news outlet in the 21st century? Not to mention a conservative news outlet that has branded itself the champion of wholesome, Republican values for years. As Fox News’ own Howard Kurtz conceded, “this has been a painful and embarrassing period for the network."

    Indeed. “Current and former employees described instances of harassment and intimidation that went beyond Mr. Ailes and suggested a broader problem in the workplace,” The New York Times reported. “The Times spoke with about a dozen women who said they had experienced some form of sexual harassment or intimidation at Fox News or the Fox Business Network, and half a dozen more who said they had witnessed it.”

    Fox News’ July fiasco first detonated on the sixth when former anchor Gretchen Carlson filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against former network chairman and CEO Roger Ailes. Since then, it’s been a steady stream of allegations aired in the press as current and former employees speak out.

    Ailes was shown the door on July 21, but the stain remains. And that’s why Rupert Murdoch and his sons, James and Lachlan, who have taken oversight of Fox News, need to clean house.

    On Monday it was reported that longtime Fox News executive Michael Clemente had left the network. His exit was approved by the Murdochs, according to CNN’s Dylan Byers. Byers added, “Network insiders say the move was unrelated to the recent sexual harassment allegations surrounding Ailes, though it's also true that Clemente showed no signs of leaving the network prior to the scandal.”

    For now, James and Lachlan are saying all the right things about wanting to fix Fox News: “We continue our commitment to maintaining a work environment based on trust and respect. We take seriously our responsibility to uphold these traditional, long-standing values of our company.”

    And to their credit, they quickly hired an outside law firm to investigate harassment allegations. The looming question now is, how do the Murdochs deal with the alleged pattern of abuse? Do they hope the story fades away with Ailes’ departure, or do they actually try to make Fox News a place where women feel comfortable working?

    New York’s Gabriel Sherman noted over the weekend that according to people he had spoken to inside the company, “the only way to change the Fox News culture is to move out all of the executives that Ailes had elevated into positions of power.” And he’s right, in part because some of those Ailes-affiliated executives reportedly tried to defend their boss this month by getting Fox hosts to disparage Carlson and her harassment claims.

    The sheer number of allegations swirling around Fox News, as recently reported by New YorkNew York Timesand The Washington Post (among others), remains startling.

    According to a former staffer, Ailes made “jokes that he liked having women on their knees.” Women did not want to be alone with Ailes in closed-door meetings. Ailes allegedly grabbed the buttocks of a young intern in 2002 after she rebuffed his sexual advances. One former employee says Ailes tried to kiss her in 2004, after telling her, “Do you know how to play the game?” According to Gretchen Carlson’s lawsuit, he told her in 2015, “I think you and I should have had a sexual relationship a long time ago.” And at a company picnic, Ailes allegedly asked a former “rising star at the network” if she was wearing “panties” while she jumped on a trampoline. 

    But it wasn’t just Ailes.

    Former correspondent Rudi Bakhtiar has detailed how she was fired after she complained that Fox News’ then-D.C. bureau chief offered her a promotion if she agreed to sleep with him. (“I’d like to see the inside of your hotel room.”)

    Meanwhile, Fox News managers tried to set up their employees on dates with their superiors. One current employee alleged a supervisor said she could work on a new assignment if she agreed to give him oral sex.

    And of course in 2004, Bill O’Reilly was accused of sexual harassment by a former producer. The harassment came in the form O’Reilly diving into detailed discussions with a female employee about masturbation, climaxing, and shower fantasies. (The case was quickly settled out of court.)

    Your move, Murdochs.

    The behind-the-scenes story being told is that the Murdoch sons have been embarrassed by Ailes and Fox News for years and have been trying to oust the entrenched chief from his corner office. “This is not principally about sexual harassment,” Murdoch biographer Michael Wolff told the Washington Post. “This is an internal coup.”

    Noted Financial Review columnist Neil Chenoweth, based in Murdoch’s home country of Australia, “It looked like an excuse to dump Ailes, for the minor Murdochs to have their revenge.”

    Now that the sons have finally succeeded, thanks to the threat of outside legal action, are they going to simply remove Ailes, read an outside investigation about rampant sexual harassment allegations, shelve the lecherous findings, and carry on without any kind of radical shift in leadership? It doesn’t seem possible that just one man was responsible for that much alleged harassment.

    Meaning, if James and Lachlan make no concerted effort to fix the widespread problems facing the women working at Fox News, that means James and Lachlan will soon own that problem and that stigma.

    I’m under no illusions Murdoch and his sons will start poaching top scribes from the New York Times or National Public Radio and clean away the dreck and the sludge that now line the editorial halls at Fox News. Boss Murdoch has made his career peddling ugly lies and marketing falsehoods, and he’s happy to make a buck playing the partisan game.

    So no, I don’t expect Fox News to become a beacon of journalism anytime soon. But it's hard to justify allowing Fox News to continue to reward an outdated, hands-on, Mad Men culture. 

  • CNN Reports First High-Level Executive Leaves Fox News Only Days After Sexual Harassment Investigation Forced Out Roger Ailes

    Blog ››› ››› BRENDAN KARET

    CNN's Dylan Byers reports that former Fox News Executive Vice President Michael Clemente has left the network "days after Roger Ailes' departure from Fox News.”

    CNN reported that Clemente’s departure “was unrelated to the recent sexual harassment allegations surrounding Ailes,” which continues to plague the network, with new reports that sexual harassment may be widespread at Fox. Clemente’s number two, Peter Boyer, also left the network. CNN noted that Clemente "showed no signs of leaving the network prior to the scandal”:

    Michael Clemente, a longtime executive vice president of News at Fox who was effectively demoted earlier this year, has left the network, spokespeople confirmed. Peter Boyer, a former New Yorker writer who recently served as Clemente's number two, has also left.

    Clemente's departure, first reported by TVNewser, was approved by 21st Century Fox co-chairman Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch. Network insiders say the move was unrelated to the recent sexual harassment allegations surrounding Ailes, though it's also true that Clemente showed no signs of leaving the network prior to the scandal.

    Clemente's exit from Fox follows reports from New York magazine's Gabriel Sherman that Fox News executives had helped Ailes "cover up" sexual harassment allegations, as well as Good Morning America's report that there was a "culture inside Fox News" of sexual harassment.

  • New Yorker’s David Remnick: The GOP Convention “Was Like A Four-Day-Long Fox-Fest”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    New Yorker editor David Remnick detailed the nexus between the messaging of Fox News and that of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump in his comments at the GOP convention, explaining that Trump “adopted Fox rhetoric, Fox fury, and Fox standards of truth and falsehood” along with his own “Trumpian nativist flair.”

    Trump has a long relationship with Fox News and Fox News personalities. This close relationship led Trump to receive nearly double the airtime of any other candidate on the channel during the Republican primary. Trump’s camaraderie with Fox was criticized by conservative commentators who labeled the network a “Donald Trump super PAC,” while other media figures have highlighted Fox News’ role in the rise of Trump.

    In an article that will appear in the August 1 issue of The New Yorker, editor David Remnick pointed to the Republican National Convention, which he described as “a four-day-long Fox-fest, full of fearmongering, demagoguery, xenophobia, third-rate show biz, pandering, and raw anger,” as evidence of the relationship between Trump and former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes. From the article:

    The Ailes-Trump relationship has been turbulent, roiled by the differences of large narcissisms—two immense egos competing for the same ideological berth. Last year, Trump moodily boycotted Ailes’s network, complaining that Megyn Kelly, as a debate moderator, had unreasonably quoted back to him some of his most memorable descriptions of half of humanity: “fat pigs,” “slobs,” “disgusting animals.” Nevertheless, Trump, who admits that he reads almost nothing and gets his information from “the shows,” adopted Fox rhetoric, Fox fury, and Fox standards of truth and falsehood, all with a dollop of Trumpian nativist flair. The Republican Convention in Cleveland last week was like a four-day-long Fox-fest, full of fearmongering, demagoguery, xenophobia, third-rate show biz, pandering, and raw anger. By comparison, Nixon in ’68 was Adlai Stevenson murmuring sonnets at a library luncheon.

    [...]

    Still, Ailes could take paternal pride in Trump’s acceptance speech. The nominee began with a phrase about “generosity and warmth” (barked, it’s true, as if some kind of threat), but—untethered to statistics or facts, and with his inner volume dialled past eleven—Trump went on to portray a country facing a Clinton legacy of “death, destruction, and weakness,” a nation of lawless immigrants roaming cities and towns, “chaos” in the streets, radical Islamic terrorists opposed by nothing but a pusillanimous government and its popgun military.

    [...]

    The reckoning was long overdue. Ailes’s most ominous political spawn, however, has so far evaded accountability. Ivanka Trump introduced her father by reminding the Convention of the tremendous “sacrifice” he had made to take a leave from his business to run for office. Now, having conquered “the party of Lincoln,” the most dangerous candidate for the White House in generations is hoping to win on a platform of paranoia. We hear sirens in the night.