It was only a few short weeks ago when the news broke that former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson was suing her former employer, alleging that she had been let go because she rebuked sexual advances from the now former CEO of the network, Roger Ailes.
As I figured at the time, that was just the tip of the iceberg.
That very same day, more information began to emerge regarding multiple other women who had contacted Carlson’s lawyers to discuss their own personal experiences with sexual harassment while working for Fox News. Then not too long after that, it was reported that Megyn Kelly, easily one of the most well-respected and famous people on the network, had told investigators that Ailes had harassed her earlier in her career.
Soon after Kelly’s accusations become public, it was announced that Ailes would be stepping down as CEO of Fox News.
Now the latest person to come forward was Andrea Tantaros who claims that she was taken off the air after she rejected sexual advances from Mr. Ailes. She’s also alleging that she was more or less told that she should let it all go because Ailes was very powerful and could make life difficult for her.
Keep in mind that this is three fairly well-known female employees (or former in the case of Carlson) who’ve accused Roger Ailes of sexual harassment. And while there’s still plenty that we don’t know, the allegations being levied against him have to be pretty damn severe for the “powers that be” to have removed the only CEO Fox News had ever known within just a couple of weeks of this going public.
However, while most of the attention is currently centered around Ailes, I think there’s a much bigger issue we need to be talking about as it relates to all of this: How was this kept a secret, who helped keep it a secret, and how many people were involved?
I guarantee you this doesn’t start and stop with the disgraced former CEO. Typically when a CEO is behaving in such a manner, they’re the catalyst for that type of behavior to be mirrored by other colleagues who feel empowered because “the boss” is doing it.
What’s been really striking to me is the lack of any prominent male members of Fox News coming forward to speak out against Ailes or support these women. If you ask me, this could be a sign that some of them have also been involved in sexually harassing women.
There’s no way this has been going on for years, especially toward fairly prominent female employees of Fox News, and none of the more well-known male personalities on the network knew about it. In my experience following stories like this, it’s fairly common to see people who are also guilty of something similar trying to “lay low” hoping that it will all blow over and they might not get brought up. While that tactic rarely works, if you’re a male working at Fox News who knows you’ve also sexually harassed female colleagues, it’s about the only “hope” you have.
I’m not discounting the importance of Ailes involvement or his dismissal from the network, but I think when this is all said and done, the bigger story is going to be about the culture of the entire network; how far the harassment spread; the years of calculated efforts by people at the network who bullied and intimidated women into not coming forward; and how many well-known personalities on the network were either complicit in letting it happen or possibly even sexually harassed female employees, themselves.
That’s really where the attention needs to be placed. It’s great that Ailes is finally facing some consequences for what he’s done to all these women during his tenure at Fox News, but I have no doubt that he’s just the first big domino to fall and we’re going to see a rather big house cleaning in the coming weeks/months. It wouldn’t surprise me if, in the next 12-18 months, we’re looking at a Fox News channel that looks nothing like it does today.
In a way, Fox News should really be glad this happened when it did. If it wasn’t for the constant stream of mind-boggling stupidity that emanates from Donald Trump on a daily basis, as well as the election year in general, what’s currently going on at the network would be a much bigger story.