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Roger Ailes steps down as CEO of Fox News amid sexual harassment claims

As more women come forward with claims of sexual harassment, Roger Ailes will no longer be in charge at Fox news.

Roger Ailes, CEO of Fox News, resigned on July 21, two weeks after former Fox and Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson sued him for sexual harassment.  Gretchen Carlson started working for Fox News in 2005, and spent over seven years as a co-host for the popular morning show Fox and Friends.  In 2013, Carlson moved from Fox and Friends and got her own afternoon show “the Real Story with Gretchen Carlson.”  Prior to her lawsuit being filed, her show was canceled, and she was released from Fox News on June 23.

On July 6, Carlson filed her lawsuit against Ailes, which claimed sexual harassment and retaliation.  In addition to her sexual harassment claims, Carlson says her show was canceled, not due to ratings, but because she rebuffed Roger Ailes’ s sexual advances towards her.

[H]e often belittled her on the show, mocked her during commercial breaks, and made attempts to shush her…

Her complaint not only mentions Ailes, but her “Fox and Friends” co-host Steve Doocy as well.  The complaint alleges that Doocy created a hostile work environment by treating Carlson in a sexist and condescending way.  According to Carlson, he often belittled her on the show, mocked her during commercial breaks, and made attempts to shush her during live broadcasts.  She reportedly made a complaint to Fox News, which she claims resulted in her losing important interviews and career opportunities.

Carlson listed many instances and examples of sexual harassment committed against her by Ailes, claiming that he even suggested that the two have a sexual relationship, because they would both be better off.  Carlson also said that he often made comments about her legs, what she was wearing, and made several sexual innuendos towards her.

21st Century Fox hired Paul, Weiss to conduct an internal investigation…

In response to the lawsuit, 21st Century Fox hired prominent New York law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton and Garrison to conduct an internal investigation of the claims.  Although the law firm cannot release the findings of their report, several news outlets have claimed that multiple women have come forward with their own stories of sexual assault.  According to the Washington Post, a former reporter said that behind closed doors, Ailes often made provocative comments about her body and that each meeting with Ailes began and ended with a hug and a kiss, which made her extremely uncomfortable.

Megyn Kelly, of the “Kelly File” and “America’s Newsroom”, and arguably Fox News’s biggest star, has remained publically silent about the sexual harassment lawsuit.  According to New York Magazine, the reason is that Kelly told investigators from Paul, Weiss, that Roger Ailes also had harassed her.  Specifics have yet to emerge, and likely will not unless Megyn Kelly herself speaks out.

[O]ther staff members have reportedly been mentioned as well.

While Roger Ailes is at the center of the Fox News investigation, other staff members have reportedly been mentioned as well.  Female staff members have reported problems with other supervisors as well.  One current employee said that she was with a male supervisor and would not be given an assignment unless she performed oral sex.  The woman said she laughed it off, thinking that she would face retaliation if she told him that the comment was inappropriate.

CNN reporter Rudi Bakhitar, who briefly worked for Fox News, spoke with the New York Times about the unfortunate encounter she had with colleague Brian Wilson.  According to Bakhitar, Wilson wanted a sexual relationship, and when she turned him down, Roger Ailes ended her employment at Fox.  The Times also spoke with about a dozen women who said they had experienced some form of sexual harassment or intimidation at Fox News, with two of them mentioning Ailes and the rest other supervisors.  They all spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.  Many of them say they still work in television and do not want to harm their careers.  Gretchen Carlson has expressed her relief and gratitude at the outpouring of support she has received.

According to news sources, Ailes was given until August 1st to step down on his own, before he would be forced out.

Two weeks following the filing of Carlson’s lawsuit, Roger Ailes officially stepped down as CEO of Fox News.  According to news sources, Ailes was given until August 1st to step down on his own, before he would be forced out.  21st Century Fox executive chairman Rupert Murdoch is now the acting CEO of Fox News, and says that his focus is getting the news channel back on track.

Roger Ailes has denied any wrongdoing since the claims first came to light.  “Ailes is proud of his long record of supporting and promoting women in lead roles while he was at Fox News,” his attorney Susan Estrich said in a statement. “Roger is committed to defending himself against the campaign that is being waged to destroy his reputation including the vigorous refutation of demonstrably false and incredible charges.”  Estrich added, “It is virtually impossible to respond to anonymous allegations, much less ones that are fourteen or even thirty years old, especially charges never made at the time of the alleged occurrence.  In the law, this impossibility is why we have statutes of limitation, that are at most three years.”  Currently, none of the other women who have claimed sexual harassment have filed any lawsuits.

Many question the future of Fox News…

Roger Ailes was responsible for taking Fox News to the level of success it is currently at.  With him gone, many question the future of Fox News.  Questions also arise about the future of the networks stars, such as Bill O’Reilly.  In a recent appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers, O’Reilly said “I stand behind Roger 100 percent,” O’Reilly told Meyers on the show, adding that “in this country, every famous, powerful or wealthy person is a target.  You’re a target, I’m a target.  Anytime, somebody could come out and sue us, attack us, go to the press or anything like that.”   With his outspoken support of Ailes, many are questioning whether his contract will be renewed in 2017.

Any woman (or man) who feels that they are being harassed in the workplace, should go through proper channels to report it, as the only way to truly stop a problem like this is to raise awareness of its occurrence.  In a recent statement, a spokeswoman for 21st Century Fox, said, “As we’ve made clear, there’s absolutely no room anywhere at our company for behavior that disrespects women or contributes to an uncomfortable work environment.”

Katelyn Heath, Ethics Editor Emeritus
About Katelyn Heath, Ethics Editor Emeritus (20 Articles)
Katelyn Heath is a 2017 graduate of Campbell Law School and served as the Ethics Editor for the Campbell Law Observer during the 2016-2017 academic year. She is from Salisbury, North Carolina and graduated from UNC-Charlotte with a Bachelor of Arts in History and Criminal Justice in 2014. Following her first year of law school she attended Baylor Law Schools Academy of the Advocate in Scotland. She is also currently working for Marshall and Taylor PLLC, a local family law firm.
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