Gretchen Carlson, a longtime Fox News host, has filed a lawsuit against Fox Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes alleging that he made unwanted sexual advances and then sabotaged her career when she refused.
The lawsuit claims she was “a conscientious, hard-working, and successful” journalist over her 11 years at the network and that her recent solo show ranked number one for cable news programs in her time slot. Yet it alleges that she was unfairly paid less than male peers and denied desirable assignments and other opportunities in retaliation for her complaining of sexual harassment and gender discrimination she says she experienced, as well as rejecting Ailes’s sexual advances.
Carlson joined Fox News in 2005 and began co-hosting “Fox & Friends” in 2006. In September of 2009, the lawsuit says she complained to her supervisor that her co-host Steve Doocy “regularly treat[ed] her in a sexist and condescending way,” including putting his hand on her or pulling her arm to quiet her during live shows. She also claims he mocked and shunned her off air, belittled her, refused to engage with her on air, and “generally attempt[ed] 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.”
Ailes’s response, according to the lawsuit, was to criticize Carlson, calling her a “man hater” and “killer” and telling her to learn to “get along with the boys.” Afterward, she claims Ailes retaliated by assigning her to less important interviews, removing her from a weekly appearance on “The O’Reilly Factor,” and reducing her appearances during a coveted 6:00 a.m. slot. She was then fired from “Fox & Friends” and reassigned to a slot in the 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. hour, where she alleges her compensation was reduced even though her workload increased.
In September of last year, Carlson met with Ailes to complain about the discriminatory treatment and sexual harassment she felt she was receiving from coworkers. According to the lawsuit, Ailes responded, “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,” adding, “sometimes problems are easier to solve” that way. She says she refused his advances.
Carlson was terminated on June 23, nine months after that meeting.
The lawsuit makes a number of other claims about the way Ailes treated her, including telling her to turn around in his office so he could see her backside, saying she was “sexy” but “too much hard work,” commenting on her legs, and urging her to wear outfits every day that he said enhanced her figure. She also alleges he told her she saw things as though it “only rains on women” and told her to stop worrying about getting “offended so God damn easy about everything.” He also told her she tried to “show up the boys” on “Fox & Friends.”
“Ailes has unlawfully retaliated against Carlson and sabotaged her career because she refused his sexual advances and complained about severe and pervasive sexual harassment,” the lawsuit states.
In a statement, Carlson said she “had to stand up for myself and speak out for all women and the next generation of women in the workplace.” Fox could not be immediately reached for comment.
Carlson has previously spoken out about other mistreatment she’s received professionally, including sexual assaults from a television executive and public relations executive early in her career.
Late on Thursday, Fox News’s parent company 21st Century Fox issued a statement saying, “We take these matters seriously.” It said that it has “full confidence in Mr. Ailes and Mr. Doocy, who have served the company brilliantly for over two decades,” but that it has also begun an internal review of the allegations.
In a separate statement, Ailes said the allegations are “false,” saying, “This is a retaliatory suit for the network’s decision not to renew her contract,” a decision he attributed to poor ratings. “This defamatory lawsuit is not only offensive, it is wholly without merit and will be defended vigorously,” he added.