Fox News Chief Sought Sex, Retaliated Over Discrimination Complaints, Says Former Host

UPDATE: 9:30 a.m. ET July 7, 2016


Gretchen Carlson’s lawyers released a statement Thursday refuting Roger Ailes’ claim that Carlson was fired due “her disappointingly low ratings,” saying her “total viewership was up 33 percent year to date and up 23 percent in the key demographic.”

Advertising AgeconfirmedCarlson’s Nielsen ratings, saying they showed “steady if unspectacular growth for the show, and better numbers than any of its rivals on other news networks.”

ORIGINAL STORY

Gretchen Carlson, an 11-year veteran at Fox News Channel, on Wednesday filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Roger Ailes, the network’s chairman and CEO, claiming she was repeatedly harassed and ultimately fired for “refusing Ailes’ sexual advances.”

Carlson, who until late last month hosted daytime newscast “The Real Story,” alleges Ailes repeatedly “injected sexual and/or sexist comments” into their conversations andretaliated against her for complaining about discrimination and harassment.

In the complaint, which was filed in New Jersey’s Bergen County Superior Court, Carlson claimed that during a meeting to discuss ongoing “discriminatory treatment,” Ailes told her, “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.”

According to Carlson’s suit, Ailes further retaliated against her by “directing that she not be showcased at all” and her compensation was reduced “to a level that was greatly disproportionate to that of similarly-situated male employees.”

The lawsuit goes on to say that in September 2009, Carlson complained to a supervisor that her former “Fox & Friends” co-host Steve Doocy was creating a “hostile work environment by regularly treating her in a sexist and condescending way [and] engaged in a pattern and practice of severe and pervasive sexual harassment.” Carlson alleges that upon hearing of her complaints, Ailes called her a “man hater” and “killer” who needed to “get along with the boys.”

Bloomberg Politics on Wednesday uploaded thetwo-minute video of Carlson’s “Fox & Friends” co-hosts acting sexist toward her on the show.

In a statement Wednesday night, Ailes denied Carlson’s allegations: “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.”

Since news of Carlson’s lawsuit went public, “at least 10” other women have contacted the law firm representing her to discuss their interactions with Ailes, a spokesman for the law firm told CNN.

And Ailes has a long history of alleged sexual harassment and making sexist comments.

In 2011, Ailes told The Associated Press he hired former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for an on-air position “because she was hot and got ratings.”

Author Gabriel Sherman in 2014 wrote a biography about Ailes called “The Loudest Voice in the Room: How the Brilliant, Bombastic Roger Ailes Built Fox News and Divided a Country,” in which he describes several instances of overt sexism and sexual advances with female employees.

One incident recounts a story by television producer Randi Harrison, who said that during an interview for a job at NBC in the 1980s, Ailes offered her an extra hundred dollars a week if she agreed to have sex with him whenever he wanted.

Sherman shares other stories from people at newsrooms from CNBC to Fox News where Ailes regularly demanded that on-air female personalities show more skin, stop wearing pantsuits and show off their legs. In one case, Ailes bought a glass anchor desk specifically to show the hosts’ legs.

Fox News Channel is not named in the lawsuit, but parent company 21st Century Fox said it will be conducting an internal review.

Carlson, 50, grew up in Minnesota and later attended Stanford University. During college, in 1988, she competed in the Miss America contest and won. Last year she wrote about sexual harassment for The Huffington Post:

“Most professional women I know have experienced sexual harassment,” she wrote. “So have I a few times and I never talked about it until now. If that seems surprising, it shouldn’t be. I’ve always considered myself a strong woman, not afraid to stand up for myself, but in the face of sexual harassment I was silent. As the issue takes a prominent place in the headlines today, I sometimes feel guilty about my trepidation. Perhaps I could have moved the conversation forward if I had come forth.”

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