Sexual Harassment: the Silence That Continues

fox-oreilly

In a 2016 memoir, Settle for More, former Fox News Anchor Megyn Kelly explains why she didn’t come forward sooner about the sexual harassment she faced at the hands of former Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes.

In an interview with ABC News journalist George Stephanopoulos (Nov. 15, 2016), “…Kelly said she did not come forward sooner… because it would have been a ‘suicide mission’ professionally….

“ ‘He tried to kiss me three times [in his office], so I rejected that, and when I rejected that, he asked me when my contract was up,’ Kelly, 45, said… ‘As soon as I left his office, I called a lawyer, and I did bring the matter to a supervisor at Fox News.’

“ ‘That person vouched for Roger’s character, assured me that he was a good man, that he was likely just smitten and that I should try to avoid him, which I did,’ said Kelly, who said harassment from Ailes, 76, stopped after she avoided him for six months. …

“[Kelly] said it happened nearly a decade ago, when she was just 12 months into her career at Fox News.

“ ‘…I had attributed [it] to he was interested in me, he was having a marital difficulty, perhaps he was just interested in having an extramarital affair,’ Kelly said. ‘I wrestled with what to do because I wasn’t sure what the truth was about Roger.’ ”

The truth became clear when, last September, “…Kelly’s former Fox colleague Gretchen Carlson settled a sexual harassment lawsuit with 21st Century Fox in which Carlson alleged Ailes ‘sabotaged’ her career after she ‘refused his sexual advances.’

“A source familiar with the deal told ABC News that the settlement was valued at $20 million. 21st Century Fox issued an public apology to Carlson, but Ailes has repeatedly denied allegations of sexual harassment. …

“ ‘I now know the number of women who were targeted, and it’s disturbing,’ Kelly said.”

So why didn’t Kelly go public and take Ailes to court for sexual harassment?

“ ‘We all had arbitration clauses in our deals,’ Kelly explained to Stephanopoulos, ‘which prevented us from filing public lawsuits,’ who called 21st Century Fox Executive Chairman Lachlan Murdoch after Carlson’s lawsuit to tell him of her own experience.”

After Carlson filed her lawsuit, other women came forward to share similar allegations of harassment regarding Ailes as far back as the 60s.

21st Century Fox owners Rupert Murdoch and his sons hired an outside law firm who interviewed past and present Fox employees. “The New York Times reported that at least six other women told the lawyers that Ailes had behaved inappropriately toward them.”

On July 16, 2016, Ailes resigned as chairman of Fox News.

On April 9, Reuters reported that “Twenty-First Century Fox said on Sunday it will investigate a sexual harassment claim against TV anchor Bill O’Reilly, who has seen several companies pull their ads from his top-rated news show in the past week.

“The investigation comes after a complaint was phoned in to the network’s corporate hotline last week by Wendy Walsh, a former regular guest on Fox’s The O’Reilly Factor TV show, and her lawyer, Lisa Bloom, which the two posted to YouTube.”

“On April 3, Democratic political consultant and Fox News contributor Julie Roginsky sued the network and Ailes, accusing them of denying her a permanent hosting job after she rebuffed Ailes’ sexual advances.

“Roginsky said that a misogynistic culture at Fox News had not changed since Ailes left the network,” Reuters added.

“For more than a decade,” Bryce Covert writes (What We Settle for on Harassment, Apr. 11); women have publicly lodged sexual harassment complaints against the Fox News host Bill O’Reilly. In 2004, a producer on his show, Andrea Mackris, filed a lawsuit accusing him of harassing her with sexually explicit phone calls… some of which Ms. Mackris said she recorded.

“But the case was settled without a trial or much public insight into what actually happened.”

However, things changed when “The New York Times exposed a number of payments made in secret to other women accusing the host of sexual harassment over the years. Nothing has substantively changed since the details of Ms. Mackris’s treatment were exposed in her lawsuit. But now the public is privy to other women who say they suffered the same abuse, and aware of the backdoor deals that were struck to keep them quiet. …

“But 40 percent of women,” Covert continues, “still say they experience sexual harassment at work. When they risk coming forward, many of them are either enticed or forced into private settlements outside of the courts by employers who want to avoid a public reckoning. Thanks to private settlements, we confront a very tiny sliver of their stories.

“When Ms. Carlson sued Mr. Ailes over allegations of sexual harassment and numerous other women came forward with similar stories, the Fox News chief was pushed out. The company even went as far as to internally investigate claims of rampant sexual harassment and apologize to Ms. Carlson for what she endured. It seemed a toxic culture was about to be cleansed. But without an actual spotlight on what’s really going on inside Fox, not much appears to have changed. …

“Mr. O’Reilly has followed this same pattern over the years. According to The Times, at least five women have received payments from either him or Fox that together total about $13 million, most of which were never previously made public. Many of the payments have come with agreements that the women won’t speak about what happened to them,” Covert adds and that’s part of the problem.

“The women involved have hopefully gotten some justice through the compensation. But their required silence most likely meant that justice for others was elusive. …

“Julie Roginsky could change that,” Covert writes. “She filed a lawsuit alleging that she was sexually harassed by Mr. Ailes, including being made to bend over to kiss him in private professional meetings so that he could look down her shirt and being subjected to conversations about her sex life. She says she was then retaliated against by other executives, indicating a far larger culture problem. Because she isn’t an employee, but a contributor, she is unbound by arbitration restrictions, and her attorneys are asking New York City officials to investigate Fox’s treatment of women after the company’s internal investigation seems to have done so little.”

The backroom deals, and requisite silence only allows the same behavior to continue, and, in the end, becomes just another cost of doing business.

Is anything likely to change after the revelations of alleged sexual harassment by several women against Bill O’Reilly?

Reuters reports that Fox has hired law firm Paul Weiss to investigate O’Reilly. The same firm they used in the Ailes investigation.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on LinkedInEmail this to someoneShare on RedditShare on Tumblr

1 comment… add one

  • John Baldwin MD, FACS, Major, US Army April 13, 2017, 12:58 pm

    As one who often speaks out, usually to corroborate Jim’s astute analyses and yes, sometimes to add and disagree with my Friend’s brilliant in-depth essays, it is quite dismaying that SO FEW of you hundreds (documented) of readers ever step up to amplify or simply disagree with the presented information. I, for one, would greatly value your educated input.

Leave a Comment