Gretchen Carlson, the former co-host of Fox News’ morning variety hour Fox & Friends, has filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the network’s founder and powerful CEO, Roger Ailes. In it, Carlson’s attorneys allege that Ailes repeatedly made sexual advances on Carlson, and retaliated against her when she rebuffed them, culminating in her firing on June 23 of this year.
- Carlson alleges that Ailes told her last fall that, “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” and that “sometimes problems are easier to solve” with sex. This was apparently during a meeting in which Carlson wanted to address Ailes’ “discriminatory treatment” toward her.
- Carlson alleges that one of her Fox & Friends co-hosts, Steve Doocy, “engaged in a pattern and practice of severe and pervasive sexual harassment of Carlson, including, but not limited to, mocking her during commercial breaks, shunning her off air, refusing to engage with her on air, belittling her contributions to the show, and generally attempting to put her in her place by refusing to accept and treat her as an intelligent and insightful female journalist rather than a blond female prop.”
- Carlson alleges that Ailes called her a “man hater” after learning about her complaints about Doocy.
- Carlson alleges that she witnessed Ailes “ogling [her] in his office and asking her to turn around so he could view her posterior.”
- Carlson alleges that she heard Ailes “wondering aloud how anyone could be married to Carlson, while making sexual advances by various means, including by stating that if he could choose one person to be stranded with on a desert island, she would be that person.”
- Carlson alleges that Ailes said “to others in her presence that he had ‘slept’ with three former Miss Americas but not with her.” (Carlson notes, parenthetically, that she was the 1989 winner of the Miss America pageant.)
- Carlson alleges that Ailes removed her from Fox & Friends, and set her up with her own afternoon show, as a way of retaliating against her for resisting his sexual advances.
The rest of the lawsuit proceeds in a similar fashion (e.g., Carlson alleges that Ailes has a habit of “commenting repeatedly about [her] legs”). The lawsuit does not specify how much money in damages the former co-host is seeking from Ailes. The CEO is married to newspaper publisher Elizabeth Ailes and has one son. Carlson is married to sports agent Casey Close and has two children.
Curiously, Carlson is suing Roger Ailes alone; neither Fox News Channel nor its parent company, 21st Century Fox, are named as defendants. When former O’Reilly Factor producer Andrea Mackris sued Bill O’Reilly for sexual harassment in October 2004, by contrast, she included Fox News, its parent company, and O’Reilly’s radio distributor as co-defendants. But Carlson’s lawsuit argues that Fox News is not liable for Ailes’ alleged sexual harassment:
Ailes undertook these discriminatory and retaliatory actions in his individual capacity and for personal and unlawful purposes. His retaliation against Carlson was outside the scope of his authority, employment and agency at Fox News, which has adopted and professes to support anti-discrimination, anti-harassment and anti-retaliation policies.
Carlson is not the first woman to allege that Roger Ailes sexually harassed her. In 2014, the journalist Gabriel Sherman published a lengthy biography of Ailes called The Loudest Voice in the Room, in which he quoted a former CNBC producer named Randi Harrison who said Ailes told her during a job interview that he would increase her salary “if you agree to have sex with me whenever I want.” (Fox denied Harrison’s account.)