Two months to the day after former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson filed a bombshell sexual harassment lawsuit against Fox Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes, Fox is settling with Carlson for $20 million.
The money — which, incidentally, is exactly half of what Ailes took home in his severance package back in July —came with a public apology from 21st Century Fox:
Full 21st Century Fox statement on the settlement with Gretchen Carlson: pic.twitter.com/QsJkYsI4Cr
— Phil Mattingly (@Phil_Mattingly) September 6, 2016
It’s not clear just yet how much of that $20 million will come from Ailes directly, as opposed to from the bank of Fox; Carlson’s suit is against Ailes, but Fox is the de facto insurer, sources close to the discussions told Vanity Fair.
The speed with which Ailes was ousted from his own network was stunning, as was what appeared to be the promptness and seriousness with which Fox responded to Carlson’s complaint. The Murdoch sons — C.E.O. James and executive chairman Lachlan — did not hesitate to launch an internal investigation, employing the law firm Paul, Weiss to unearth all of Ailes’ and Fox’s dirt.
But the Paul, Weiss investigation focused almost entirely on Ailes at the expense of examining the workplace that allowed for and enabled his alleged behavior. From Vanity Fair:
“While the Paul, Weiss investigation interviewed more than 20 women, according to two sources familiar with the process, it never officially expanded to examine the broader culture of Fox News. The firm, according to numerous people familiar with the process, was apparently never ordered to scour the company’s hard drives for all evidence of sexual harassment or bawdy culture. In some ways, according to one person familiar with the process, the Paul, Weiss investigation simply got a revenue machine back on track.”
The limited scope of the investigation is especially striking considering what played out in the wake of Carlson’s lawsuit. Carlson was neither the first nor the last woman to accuse Ailes of inappropriate conduct; once she came forward, several others followed, including a former Fox News booker who described enduring a 20-year period of “psychological tortur[e]” at Ailes’ hands.
As the New York Times reported earlier this summer, a multitude of women — about 12 who said they experienced sexual harassment or intimidation at Fox, and about half as many others who said they witnessed it — said that, at Fox News, “inappropriate comments about a woman’s appearance and sex life were frequent. Managers tried to set up their employees on dates with superiors.”
Ailes previously denied all the allegations against him and did not release a statement upon the announcement of the settlement. Soon after Carlson’s accusations became public, a fleet of Carlson’s Fox colleagues spoke out in support of Ailes, calling Carlson’s lawsuit “BS” without “a ring of truth.”
Fox News host Greta Van Susteren told People, “I’ve often been alone with Roger Ailes in his office over the course of 15 years and I’ve never seen anything like what I’m reading about in the papers and the magazine.”
On Tuesday, the same day as Fox announced the settlement, Fox also revealed that Van Susteren would be replaced with Brit Hume, according to New York’s Gabriel Sherman. Hard to read too much into that employment shuffle, though, considering Hume’s comments about Carlson have been equally as unsympathetic as Van Susteren’s:
Here's another suggestion. Why didn't she quit & sue instead of suing only after she got fired? https://t.co/8GPKprxxsT
— Brit Hume (@brithume) July 7, 2016