The Sexual Harassment At Fox As Reported By The Press Throughout The Years
Research ››› ››› CRISTINA LóPEZ G.
A timeline depicting the reports of sexual harassment many women with professional careers at Fox News have made about powerful network figures over the years shows a pattern of corporate retaliation, victim-blaming, and million-dollar payouts for silence.
Reports About Roger Ailes: A woman who chose to not identify herself for fear of retaliation from former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes told The Washington Post that in May of 2002, when she was just 20 years old, she got an internship working for Ailes. During her brief stint there, Ailes made her get him a copy of the adult content magazine Maxim and started making inappropriate comments that left her uncomfortable enough to quit “after only a few weeks.” From the July 22 article:
“At first it was once a week,” she said. “Then it got to be every day.”
She said she quit after only a few weeks.
“When I told him I was leaving, he said he was sorry I was leaving and that he was really disappointed that I didn’t sleep with him,” she recalled. “He said, ‘You could have gotten anything you wanted.’”
“And then he grabbed me,” she said, “and grabbed my ass.” [The Washington Post, 7/22/16]
Reports About Ailes: Another Fox News employee who spoke with the Post “on the condition of anonymity” said that Ailes offered to help her with her professional development and suggested that she “have a drink with him alone at a hotel” and “tried to kiss her.” From the July 22 article:
A similar pattern appears in the allegations of another woman, a former Fox News employee, who says she was harassed by Ailes in 2004. The woman, who spoke to The Post on the condition of anonymity, says Ailes and an assistant offered to pay for her professional development and introduced her to a talent agent.
In Ailes’s office one day, she says, Ailes suggested the woman have a drink with him alone at a hotel. She says he asked her, “Do you know how to play the game?”
He tried to kiss her, she recalled.
“He was touching me,” she said. “I got out of there as quickly as I could.
She says she was traumatized and couldn’t sleep. Later, she told him that she wouldn’t meet him at the hotel. Her professional development opportunities then disappeared, she said. [The Washington Post, 7/22/16]
Reports About Bill O’Reilly: In 2004, former producer of The O’Reilly Factor Andrea Mackris sued the program’s host, Bill O’Reilly, for making “unwanted sexual advances and lewd comments in a series of phone calls and dinner conversations.” As explained by Mackris’ suit, O’Reilly also “told her on multiple occasions to buy a vibrator,” as well as calling her “when it sounded as if he was masturbating.” Mackris kept recordings of some of the conversations. [The New York Times, 1/10/17, 4/1/17]
Fox’s Reaction: Sued Mackris Pre-emptively, Accusing Her Of Extortion; Retained Private Investigator To Find Information On Her; And Hired A PR Firm To Shape The Narrative Against Her. Both the network and O’Reilly went after Mackris, suing her pre-emptively for “seeking to extort $60 million in return for not going public with ‘scandalous and scurrilous’ claims about him.” The network also paid private investigator and former network contributor Bo Dietl “to dig up information” on her, and hired a public relations firm “to help shape the narrative in Mr. O’Reilly’s favor” by portraying Mackris in tabloids “as a promiscuous woman, deeply in debt, who was trying to shake down Mr. O’Reilly.” [The New York Times, 4/1/17]
Status: Fox Settled For $9 Million. As reported by The New York Times:
After two weeks of sensational headlines, the two sides settled, and Mr. O’Reilly agreed to pay Ms. Mackris about $9 million, according to people briefed on the agreement. The parties agreed to issue a public statement that “no wrongdoing whatsoever” had occurred. [The New York Times, 4/1/17]
Reports About Joe Chillemi: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sued Fox News in 2005 on behalf of former Fox employee Kim Weiler. Weiler filed a complaint that Joe Chillemi, then-vice president at Fox, “sexually harassed and subjected Weiler and other women to a hostile work environment, routinely using obscenities and vulgarities to describe women or their body parts,” and Weiler was subsequently the victim of retaliation from the network. The EEOC suit also mentions Chillemi making “a number of derogatory comments about pregnant women,” and saying that he would always pick a man over a woman when it came to hiring. [NBC News, 11/7/05]
Fox News’ Reaction: Neither Fox News Nor News Corp. Addressed The Issue With The Press. From NBC News:
A spokesman at News Corp. and a spokeswoman at Fox News didn’t immediately return phone calls seeking comment late Monday. [NBC News, 11/7/05]
Status: Fox Settled The Suit For $225,000. As reported by The Washington Post, Fox agreed to pay $225,000 to settle the EEOC suit. [The Washington Post, 8/1/06]
Reports About Ailes. A woman who “spoke only on the condition of anonymity” told New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman that around 2006, Laurie Luhn -- formerly a protegee of Ailes' who also eventually reported being harassed by him -- “sent her to an after-hours meeting with Ailes in his office.” Ailes asked about her shoes and commented, “Women who like shoes also like lingerie.” The unidentified employee “found the conversation highly inappropriate and uncomfortable. Ailes tried to hug her and she left the meeting shaken.” [New York, 7/29/16]
Fox News’ Reaction: The Unidentified Employee Was Fired. The woman told Sherman that a few months after the harassment episode, Luhn fired her. [New York, 7/29/16]
Status: The Unidentified Employee “Hired A Lawyer And Signed A Settlement With Fox.” [New York, 7/29/16]
Reports About Brian Wilson And Ailes: According to New York magazine’s Sherman, former Fox News reporter Rudi Bakhtiar was fired from the network following her complaint that Brian Wilson, a former Fox News Washington bureau chief, had “made unwanted sexual advances toward her.” As reported by The New York Times, Wilson promised Bakhtiar a job as a full-time correspondent in Washington, DC, and then told her he wanted “to see the inside of [her] hotel room.’” Bakhtiar told Sherman that Ailes also made “unwanted sexual comments during her first interview in 2005,” asking her to stand up because he wanted to see her legs. Following Wilson’s harassment, Bakhtiar reported him to the network’s human resource department. [New York, 7/23/16, The New York Times, 7/23/16]
Fox News’ Reaction: The Network Fired Bakhtiar. After rejecting Wilson’s advances, Ailes told Bakhtiar she was being let go because they didn’t “think [she was] a good reporter” and that her firing had “nothing to do with” her rejecting Wilson’s advances. [New York, 7/23/16]
Status: Settled For $670,000 After Mediation And Signing A Nondisclosure Agreement. As reported by Sherman, Bakhtiar’s lawyer sent a letter to Fox News “saying that she had been unlawfully treated and terminated, citing a hostile environment of sexual harassment, quid pro quo sexual harassment, and retaliation.” Despite recommendations from her lawyer to take her case to court, she felt like “she didn’t have the strength to fight Fox” and settled for $670,000 (the remaining money on her contract) after the mediator ruled in her favor and instructed Fox to cover her legal fees, which Bakhtiar said “were enormous.” [New York, 7/23/16]
Reports About Ailes: Laurie Luhn, a former booker for Fox News whom Ailes personally hired and brought to Fox News, told New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman that over the span of more than 20 years beginning in 1991, Ailes made her dance, get on her knees and perform oral sex, and meet him regularly for sexual encounters in hotels, sometimes recording her without her consent. He also demanded “phone sex in the office” and instructed Luhn to “recruit young women for him,” telling her, “You’re going to find me whores.” Luhn said that besides sexually harassing her, Ailes also “psychologically tortured” her, causing her great emotional distress that affected her work, eventually causing a mental breakdown. [New York, 7/29/16]
Fox News’ Reaction: Ailes “Vehemently Denied” The Accusations, Had Fox Executives Handle Luhn’s Mental Breakdown, Monitor Her Outgoing Emails, And “Work Out A Settlement.” Ailes had Fox’s then-Vice President Bill Shine and his deputy, Suzanne Scott, handle Luhn’s mental breakdown, which they did by checking her into hotels in Texas and New York under Scott’s name. Ailes also had Shine review Luhn’s outgoing emails. Luhn reportedly wrote about Ailes sexually harassing her in a letter to Fox lawyer Dianne Brandi “in late 2010 or early 2011.” From the July 29 article:
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. [New York, 7/29/16]
Status: Fox Settled For $3.15 Million. Luhn received $3.15 million from a settlement agreement that barred her from taking Fox to court. From the July 29 article:
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. [New York, 7/29/16]
Reports About O’Reilly. Former Fox Business host Rebecca Gomez Diamond made recordings of her phone conversations with O’Reilly prior to her 2011 departure from the network. Her lawyers later used them to report O'Reilly to the network. [The New York Times, 4/1/17]
Fox News’ Reaction: Fox Made Gomez Diamond Sign A Confidentiality Agreement Before Leaving The Network. [The New York Times, 4/1/17]
Status: O’Reilly Settled With Gomez Diamond. As reported by the Times, two sources with knowledge of the agreement said O’Reilly paid an unknown sum to Diamond, with the payment becoming known to Fox’s parent organization only in “late 2016.” [The New York Times, 4/1/17]
Reports About O’Reilly and Ailes: In 2016, former Fox News anchor Laurie Dhue, who left Fox in 2008 after working there for eight years, had her lawyers contact the network to “outline her harassment claims” about O’Reilly and Ailes. [The New York Times, 4/1/17]
Fox News’ Reaction: The Reports Were Not Made Public At The Time. [The New York Times, 4/1/17]
Status: The Network’s Parent Company, 21st Century Fox, Settled With Dhue For “Over $1 Million.” Sources “briefed on the complaints” recently revealed to The New York Times that Fox’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, had agreed to pay Dhue “over $1 million” to settle. [The New York Times, 4/1/17]
Reports About Francisco Cortes: Fox News contributor Tamara N. Holder said Francisco Cortes, former vice president of Fox News Latino, tried “to force her to perform oral sex on him in February 2015 when the two were alone in his office.” [The New York Times, 3/8/17]
Fox News’ Reaction: Cortes Was Terminated And Holder Left The Network After Her Contract Expired. Holder reported Cortes’ conduct to the network in the fall of 2016. Cortes was terminated after Fox investigated Holder’s claims. She left the network after her contract expired on January 1, 2017. [The New York Times, 3/8/17]
Status: Fox Settled For $2.5 Million. [The New York Times, 3/8/17]
Reports About Ailes And Steve Doocy: On July 6, 2016, former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson filed a lawsuit detailing how Ailes and Steve Doocy -- co-host of Fox & Friends -- made “sexually-charged comments” and were “sexist and condescending” toward her, respectively. In her lawsuit, Carlson also mentioned that Ailes made “demands for sex as a way to improve her job standing.” [Vanity Fair, 7/6/16; The Washington Post, 7/22/16]
Fox News’ Reaction: Ailes Denied The Accusations And Accused Carlson Of Retaliating For Not Having Her Contract Renewed. As reported by Deadline Hollywood, Ailes responded by denying the accusations and calling the lawsuit a “retaliatory suit for the network’s decision not to renew her contract.” He also mentioned the “on-air opportunities over her 11 year tenure” that Fox had provided Carlson for which she thanked him in her book. 21st Century Fox also issued a corporate statement, in which it committed to do “an internal review,” but at the same time, it declared to have “full confidence” in the accused. From the July 8 article:
"The Company has seen the allegations against Mr. Ailes and Mr. Doocy," the statement said. "We take these matters seriously. While we have full confidence in Mr. Ailes and Mr. Doocy, who have served the company brilliantly for over two decades, we have commenced an internal review of the matter." [Deadline Hollywood, 7/6/16; CNN, 7/8/16]
Status: Fox Settled For $20 Million. The network and Carlson reached a $20 million settlement in September 2016. [Vanity Fair, 9/6/16]
Reports About Ailes: New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman reported that following Carlson’s lawsuit against Ailes, then-Fox anchor Megyn Kelly told investigators of the law firm Paul, Weiss who were conducting an internal review that Ailes had “made unwanted sexual advances toward her” earlier in her career and “described her harassment by Ailes in detail.” [New York, 7/19/16]
Fox’s Reaction: The Network Denied The Harassment, And Fox Figures, Including O’Reilly, Attacked Kelly In The Press. As reported by The Daily Beast, the network put out a statement denying that Ailes had ever harassed Kelly and saying, “In fact, he has spent much of the last decade promoting and helping her achieve the stardom she earned, for which she has repeatedly and publicly thanked him.” As explained by New York magazine, Ailes retaliated by attempting to discredit Kelly in the media and having his spokesperson, Irena Briganti, criticize Kelly to the press by “saying she is selfish to not stand up for the man who gave her career opportunities.” Months later, O’Reilly responded to Kelly's reports by telling the hosts of CBS’ This Morning that he wasn’t interested in reports of sexual harassment at Fox because it made his “network look bad.” That same night, O’Reilly attacked Kelly during his show by saying that if she didn’t like what was “happening in the workplace,” she should “go to Human Resources or leave.” He also said that the reports of sexual harassment were attempts to undermine Fox and that “if somebody is paying you a wage, you owe that person or company allegiance.” [The Daily Beast, 7/19/16; New York; 7/19/16; Media Matters, 11/15/16]
Status: Kelly’s Reports Of Sexual Harassment Forced The Murdochs To Let Ailes Go With A Contract Buyout Of Over $40 Million, And Eventually Kelly Signed A Contract With NBC. Before the internal review regarding sexual harassment within Fox was completed, the conservative Drudge Report broke the news that Ailes was leaving Fox with a “$40+ million parachute.” According to Newsweek, Kelly was a factor in the Murdochs’ decision to let Ailes go. Kelly eventually decided to accept NBC’s $18 million contract over Fox’s reported $20 million offer and switched networks. [Media Matters, 7/19/16; Newsweek, 1/10/17]
Reports About Ailes And O’Reilly: Former Fox host Andrea Tantaros filed a lawsuit on August 22, 2016, detailing the sexual harassment of her by Ailes. As reported by The Hollywood Reporter, Tantaros said Ailes repeatedly harassed her "beginning in the late summer of 2014,” demanding that “she turn around so he could get a better look at her body” and saying things like, “I bet you look good in a bikini.” Though she didn’t name O’Reilly as a defendant, Tantaros detailed in the lawsuit how he harassed her by “asking her to come to stay with him on Long Island where it would be 'very private,' and (b) telling her on more than one occasion that he could 'see [her] as a wild girl,' and that he believed that she had a 'wild side.'” Tantaros’ psychologist Michele Berdy also filed an affidavit in which she “recalled ‘a number of occasions when Andrea complained to me about recurring unwanted advances from Bill O’Reilly.” [The Hollywood Reporter, 8/23/16; The New York Times, 4/1/17]
Fox News’ Reaction: The Network Accused Tantaros Of Being “An Opportunist” And Eventually Offered Her A “Seven-Figure Deal To Settle The Lawsuit.” Following Tantaros’ claims, The New York Times reported that Fox claimed it investigated the reports and found them baseless and accused her of publishing a book that “violated company policy.” The network also accused her of being “an opportunist.” Fox eventually offered her a “seven-figure deal to settle the lawsuit,” which she refused in order to litigate the case in court. [The New York Times, 4/1/17; Media Matters, 10/4/16]
Status: Lawsuit Pending. Tantaros rejected an offer of “nearly $1 million for her silence and a promise not to sue the network, its executives or its employees, including Mr. O’Reilly, according to a draft of a proposed agreement.” [The New York Times, 1/10/17]
Reports About O’Reilly And Jack Abernethy: Former Fox News host Juliet Huddy reported O’Reilly and Fox News then-executive Jack Abernethy for sexual misconduct “weeks after” Ailes' July 2016 ouster from the network. She said O’Reilly “pursued a sexual relationship with her in 2011” and reacted to her rejection by trying to “derail her career.” As detailed by Huddy, O’Reilly called her repeatedly and at times it “sounded as if he was masturbating.” He also invited her to his Long Island property and to his hotel room, where he “appeared at the door in his boxer shorts.” As for Abernethy, "he started ‘trashing her’ after she rejected his attempts to pursue a personal relationship.” [The New York Times, 1/10/17]
Fox News’ Reaction: The Network Denied The Reports Of Sexual Harassment, Named Abernethy President And Gave Him A Multiyear Contract. Fox News and O’Reilly’s lawyer denied Huddy’s reports, while giving Abernethy a multiyear contract and promoting him to be the network’s co-president. [The New York Times, 1/10/17]
Status: Fox Settled For “A Sum In The High Six Figures.” As reported by The New York Times, 21st Century Fox and Huddy reached an agreement on September 5, 2016. From the January 10 article:
She was paid a sum in the high six figures, according to people briefed on the agreement. The agreement was between Ms. Huddy, 47, and 21st Century Fox, the parent company of Fox News.
As part of Ms. Huddy’s confidential agreement with 21st Century Fox, she agreed not to “disparage, malign or defame” the parties; the company, on its behalf and on the behalf of Mr. O’Reilly and Mr. Abernethy, agreed not to “disparage, malign or defame” Ms. Huddy.
The consequences for breaking confidentiality are severe, costing either side $500,000 per infringement, according to the document. Ms. Huddy is also liable if her lawyers or a person close to her discloses the terms of the agreement. [The New York Times, 1/10/17]
Reports About O’Reilly: Former Fox News contributor Wendy Walsh told the Times that O’Reilly had made inappropriate advances to her in 2013 and, after being rejected, “reneged on a promise to get her a job at the network.” [The New York Times, 4/1/17]
Fox News’ Reaction: The Network Defended O’Reilly And Tried To Discredit Walsh. The network did not address Walsh’s specific reports of sexual harassment about O’Reilly but defended the long-time Fox host in a written statement to the Times:
“21st Century Fox takes matters of workplace behavior very seriously,” the statement said. “Notwithstanding the fact that no current or former Fox News employee ever took advantage of the 21st Century Fox hotline to raise a concern about Bill O’Reilly, even anonymously, we have looked into these matters over the last few months and discussed them with Mr. O’Reilly. While he denies the merits of these claims, Mr. O’Reilly has resolved those he regarded as his personal responsibility. Mr. O’Reilly is fully committed to supporting our efforts to improve the environment for all our employees at Fox News.” [The New York Times, 4/1/17]
On April 3, Walsh revealed to CNN’s Don Lemon that the network had released the emails she had sent O’Reilly in a clear attempt to discredit her reports. She explained she had sent those in an effort to get the job she had been promised: “Fox released some of my cringe-worthy suckup emails today, because I thought if I can just be professional, if I can just be polite, if can just talk through his assistant then he'll understand that I am not a threat. I am not going to sue him and he will give me the job he promised." [CNN Money, 4/4/17]
Status: Walsh Has Stated She’s Not Interested In Getting Money. During her appearance on CNN’s CNN Tonight with Don Lemon, Walsh told the host, “I want to be clear, I’m not after money.” She clarified that her reason to go public was to work towards a “non-toxic work environment” for the future. [Media Matters, 4/4/17]
Reports About Ailes, Shine, And Diane Brandi: On April 3, as explained by NPR, Fox News political commentator Julie Roginsky filed a lawsuit against Ailes, Shine, and Ailes’ lawyer Diane Brandi, claiming Ailes “made unwanted sexual advances while leading her to believe that a big promotion would follow.” New York magazine’s Sherman reported that Roginsky’s lawyers were also filing a complaint with New York Human Rights Commission, “requesting it conduct [an] investigation of Fox News.” [NPR, 4/3/17; Twitter, 4/4/17]
Fox News’ Reaction: Fox Has Not Addressed Roginsky’s Lawsuit, But Ailes' Lawyer Called The Reports “Total Hogwash.” As reported by CNN’s Tom Kludt, as of April 3, the network had yet to comment on the lawsuit. But Susan Estrich, Ailes’ attorney, stated to CNNMoney that Roginsky's “description of meetings that she supposedly had with Roger Ailes are total hogwash” and that “the idea that Mr. Ailes would pressure Ms. Roginsky or any other women to have sexual relations with him is total nonsense. In short, this copycat complaint is not about discrimination or retaliation. This is about someone who wants to pile-on in a massive character assassination in order to achieve what she did not accomplish on the merits." [CNN Money, 4/3/17]