In an attempt to explain the allegations of sexual harassment at the Department of Homeland Security, Fox News host Geraldo Rivera on Friday resorted to saying that the few women in powerful roles at DHS want to ban all men, and that the department as a whole is undergoing a “same-sex takeover,” and a “lesbian cabal.”
The exchange on “Fox and Friends” this morning clearly made the only female host, Gretchen Carlson, uncomfortable. As she tried to steer the conversation toward a different topic, Rivera insisted on indicating that all of the women in top roles at Homeland Security are lesbians, and that such manly items as “old spice,” “smelly sailors,” and “english leather cologne” wouldn’t be allowed under Sec. Janet Napolitan:
RIVERA: Is the sub-text of the Department of Homeland Security scandal that there is some kind of lesbian kabal, that it’s a same sex takeover. …It seems everyone is talking around it. Is that really what people are saying, that men are disadvantaged because women and specifically lesbians are ruling the roost there?
CARLSON: I don’t know about that last part.[…]
KILMEADE: We don’t know for sure. But it’s easy to come to that conclusion that there is some different type of glass ceiling separating the Homeland Security Department in this case.
RIVERA: No machos need apply?
While all allegations of sexual harassment should be taken seriously, regardless of the gender of the person accused, it’s ludicrous for Rivera to say that the department is run by lesbian women. Though the top two officials are women, a quick glance over the list of leadership at DHS indicates that the majority of top positions are occupied by men.
Rivera is falling into the easy trap of assuming that any powerful woman must be a lesbian, and that women achieving any level of power portends the end of men. But in fact, his comments — which seem an intentional attempt to incite anger — point the the general problem that having few women in leadership leads to sexist assumptions about a woman’s abilities, sexuality, and relationship with male coworkers.
On the other hand, it’s understandable that Rivera might not know about women in leadership positions. His own employer, Fox News Corporation, seems to have just one female executive out of 10, and one female board member out of 16.