Sexual harassment usually is not an isolated event. Gretchen Carlson, a former Fox News host, recently filed a lawsuit against (now former) CEO of Fox News, Roger Ailes, alleging causes of action for sexual harassment and retaliatory termination. Ms. Carlson primarily alleges that Ailes propositioned her on numerous occasions, ogled her, demanded that she turn around so he could view her rear, and used sexually demeaning language. Ms. Carlson also alleges that Ailes fired her after she continually rebuffed his overtures over a 9-month period. Since Ms. Carlson filed her lawsuit, several other women came forward and accused Ailes of similar behavior. Some have spoken anonymously and others have gone on the record. While many of these allegations are decades old and no longer actionable, if true, they show a startling pattern of abuse of power, sexual discrimination and harassment, and downright perversion over almost a half a century.
WHO IS ROGER AILES?
Ailes’ early career was as a media consultant for Republican presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush, and for Rudy Giuliani’s first mayoral campaign. In the
fall of 1996, Ailes became the founding CEO of Fox News. In 2005, he was named Chairman of the Fox Television Stations Group.
WHO ARE THE ACCUSERS?
At least three women accuse Ailes of engaging in sexual harassment while he produced the Michael Douglas Show in the late 1960’s. Marsha Callahan is one of these women,. Ms. Callahan, a former model, alleges that Ailes offered to put her on the show if she had sex with him. She further alleges that he said she also would have to sleep with “a few of my select friends”. Two other women accuse Ailes of groping, kissing, and exposing his genitals. And an unidentified television producer accuses Ailes of demanding that she have sex with him and “anyone I tell you to” if she wanted her career advanced.
Other women accuse Ailes of harassment in the 1980’s. Kellie Boyle, who was a married Republican National Committee field adviser, alleges that Ailes told her, “If you want to play with the big boys, you have to lay with the big boys”. When she refused his advances, Ailes allegedly had her blackballed by the RNC.
One of the most shocking allegations against Ailes is by Laurie Luhn, a former Fox News booking director. According to Ms. Luhn’s recent statements, she was sexually harassed by Ailes over a 20-year span, starting in the late 1980’s. She claims that Fox News executives not only knew about harassment, but also helped cover it up. She alleges that the sexual harassment began soon after she met Ailes in 1988, and continued on and off until approximately 2010 when Ms. Luhn finally reported the harassment to Fox News attorney Dianne Brandi. Brandi allegedly asked Ailes about the harassment, which sources say he vehemently denied. Despite the denial, Ailes, supposedly told Brandi to work out a settlement. In June, 2011, Luhn and Brandi signed a $3.15 million settlement agreement with extensive nondisclosure provisions. The settlement bars her from ever suing Fox News over the harassment and precludes her from speaking to government authorities (EEOC, FBI) and the press.
The recent allegations against Ailes most likely would not have ended his career had they surfaced 20, 30 or 40 years ago. It was a different era and Rupert Murdoch ran Fox News. Now, employers (and the law) are less lenient and tolerant of sexual harassment. One thing is clear, over the last 20 years, Ailes built at Fox News a multi-billion dollar media juggernaut. But, in the end, he may be remembered as just another pervert who couldn’t keep it in his pants.