When the story broke a few weeks ago regarding former Fox News employee Gretchen Carlson accusing now-former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes of sexual harassment, I told everyone that this was probably just the beginning of a situation that was about to get really ugly for the network. The same day that story broke, it was also revealed that other women had already contacted Carlson’s lawyer to share their stories about how they, too, were sexually harassed by Ailes.
Then just a few days ago it was reported that Megyn Kelly had apparently told investigators that she had also been the victim of sexual harassment. That seems to have been the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back” as that very same day, rumors began to spread that Ailes was either going to be forced to resign or get fired fairly soon — which eventually happened.
While Ailes continues to deny all these allegations, the fact that the only CEO in Fox News’ history was more or less fired is a pretty clear sign that what’s being told to those looking into this matter is fairly definitive and pretty damning against Ailes.
The real underlying issue here is that if a CEO was found to have behaved in this sort of way, for years, it’s probably an indicator that there are a whole lot of other issues within the company that are about to be made public.
This seems to be the case based upon a new report by The New York Times alleging that more women are coming forward, saying that the issues within the company range from sexual harassment to intimidation — and it wasn’t limited to Roger Ailes.
Recalling the encounter in a recent phone interview, Ms. Bakhtiar said she was thrilled and told Mr. Wilson she would make him proud. But, she said, he repeated himself, asking, “You know how I feel about you?” When she asked him what he meant, he said, “Well, I’d like to see the inside of your hotel room,” adding that he wanted a friends-with-benefits relationship.
She politely rebuffed him, she said, apologizing for giving him any wrong impression. After that rejection, she felt caught in a whirlwind in which, she said, network executives canceled her Washington appearances, directed her to report her allegations to human resources and, a few weeks later, let her go, with the Fox News chairman, Roger Ailes, telling her that her tenure was ending because of her performance.
The investigation by Fox News’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, focused narrowly on Mr. Ailes. But in interviews with The New York Times, current and former employees described instances of harassment and intimidation that went beyond Mr. Ailes and suggested a broader problem in the workplace.
The Times spoke with about a dozen women who said they had experienced some form of sexual harassment or intimidation at Fox News or the Fox Business Network, and half a dozen more who said they had witnessed it. Two of them cited Mr. Ailes and the rest cited other supervisors. With the exception of Ms. Bakhtiar, they all spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing embarrassment and fear of retribution. Most continue to work in television and worry that speaking out could damage their careers.
Part of what I said when I first wrote about Carlson’s allegations is that she was well-known enough to do this and still have a career in news, which was a big part of why this managed to become a huge story. Many of the women who seem to be speaking out now are low-level, behind the scenes people whose careers could be wrecked because they’re not high-profile enough to get national attention. Even as Carlson initially made her allegations against Ailes, it wasn’t really until Megyn Kelly (someone who’s much more famous) told investigators that he had also harassed her that things began to move very quickly at Fox.
Let me reiterate, this is a huge deal for the CEO of a company like Fox News to basically be fired from a job — especially when he’s the only person to have ever held that position since he became the founding CEO almost 20 years ago.
Unfortunately, none of this information would have ever come out publicly until someone with a larger national profile (Gretchen Carlson, Megyn Kelly) came forward. Now other women who have been too afraid over what might happen to them and their careers feel more empowered to tell their stories. Even though, as the NYT report shows, many women at the network (and even some who have moved on to different careers in television) are still choosing to speak anonymously out of fear of possible retribution against them.
And that’s what makes me think we could be looking at the downfall of Fox News. While I don’t think the network is going away, the fact that many within the company are speaking out anonymously is a sign that, at least in my opinion, this anti-woman/sexual harassment atmosphere at Fox News runs very… very deep, far behind just one or two people. It’s not just about those involved, but also the people at Fox News who might have helped in trying to cover it all up.
Like I said when I first wrote about this, I fully believe that things are going to get much uglier at Fox News, because this is only the beginning. It hasn’t even been a month since this story first broke and we’ve already seen Megyn Kelly (a huge name at the network) allegedly admit to being sexually harassed and the only CEO Fox News has ever known, Roger Ailes, removed from the company. If things are moving that quickly already, history often tells us that this is going to get a whole lot worse for Fox News in the coming weeks.
I won’t be shocked if we see more than just a couple bigger names leave the company here soon, either to avoid being part of what’s about to go down, or to get out of possibly having to answer for allegations they fear might be coming against them.
Either way, while I don’t think the network is going to cease to exist, we might be looking at the complete downfall of Fox News as we know it.