Two months after Gretchen Carlson filed a lawsuit accusing former Fox News’ Chairman Roger Ailes of sexual harassment and alleging she was retaliated against and her contract with the network not renewed for rejecting his advances, the network’s parent company has agreed to a $20 million settlement. In addition, 21st Century Fox made a public apology to the former Fox & Friends anchor, a move that is unprecedented in cases involving on-the-job harassment claims. In a statement, the media giant said, in part:
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.
Ms. Carlson filed her lawsuit against Ailes two months ago, alleging she suffered retaliation for refusing his advances including a cut in pay, being moved from the high-profile morning show to a lower-rated afternoon program, and not being given the opportunity to do important interviews. Her contract with Fox expired in June and was not renewed.
In the wake of the lawsuit, Ailes was removed as head of Fox News, although he continues to deny all allegations of sexual harassment from all accounts.
Some of Carlson’s former co-workers at Fox News, including Geraldo Rivera and Greta Van Susteren, initially disputed her harassment charges and publicly defended Ailes. However, shortly after the settlement was announced, both said they regretted doubting her and retracted their defense of Ailes. Rivera, in particular, noted that his reaction is what prevents many victims of sexual harassment, abuse and assault from coming forward, saying:
I apologize for my skepticism. Like victims of sexual assault, those alleging harassment deserve the presumption of credibility. To all the victims of sexual harassment, direct and indirect, I am sorry for what happened to you. If you see harassment, say harassment, even if the alleged offender is an old friend.
It is believed that most people who experience sexual harassment on the job do not report it, fearing they will not be believed and that they will be retaliated against. That Ms. Carlson obtained a settlement, and certainly one of this size, is against the odds in cases like these, but it is even more rare and, frankly, extraordinary, that Fox News publicly apologized for what she went through.
After Ms. Carlson filed her lawsuit, several other women who worked at Fox News came forward with similar claims of harassment by Ailes and filed lawsuits of their own. Sources told Vanity Fair that the network has reached settlements with two other claimants, although the sums were not disclosed.
In a statement, Ms. Carlson said she is “gratified that 21st Century Fox took decisive action after I filed my Complaint.” She says she will now move on with the next chapter of her life. She has vowed to work to empower women in the workplace. In her statement, she had this to say:
I want to thank all the brave women who came forward to tell their own stories and the many people across the country who embraced and supported me in their #StandWithGretchen. All women deserve a dignified and respectful workplace in which talent, hard work and loyalty are recognized, revered and rewarded.
Based on his conduct, Ailes should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. This man used his position of power to his advantage. Fortunately, this perverted individual was finally caught and his actions reported. It’s most interesting that Ailes, who is as lowdown and sorry as “gully dirt,” has wound up advising Donald Trump in his political campaign. Why should anybody be surprised at this being his landing place?
Sources: Vanity Fair, ThinkProgress.org, NPR
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