The den of misogyny and debasement known as Fox News has suffered another blow to its reputation for family values. It’s only been a few months since Fox fired Roger Ailes, their founder and CEO, due to allegations of sexual harassment. About a dozen women lodged complaints against him, most notably Gretchen Carlson, who won a multimillion dollar lawsuit.
On Monday a new report revealed that Fox’s top star, Bill O’Reilly, has also been the target of harassment allegations. Former anchor Juliet Huddy made the complaint over charges stemming from her employment in 2011. She asserted that O’Reilly made unwanted advances and sexually explicit phone calls wherein he appeared to be masturbating. Additionally, he threatened to adversely affect her career and retaliated when she proved to be an uncooperative victim. The complaint also named Jack Abernethy, the newly appointed co-president of Fox who replaced Ailes.
The news reports indicate that Fox News paid a substantial amount to settle with Huddy. Both Fox News and O’Reilly, however, deny the charges. The settlement was arranged in secret and stipulated that Huddy refrain from disclosing its terms. According to the report:
“LawNewz.com has confirmed the settlement with three separate sources including a former Fox News executive with direct knowledge of the matter. In addition, we obtained a draft of the intent to sue letter which was sent or handed to Fox News and listed the allegations of sexual harassment against both men. While we weren’t able to confirm the exact amount of the settlement, our sources tell us the amount paid out was in the high six figures. Neither Abernethy, nor O’Reilly paid any money out personally and, we are told, Abernethy and O’Reilly strongly denied all of the charges made against them by Huddy from the start.”
This isn’t the first time that O’Reilly has undergone scrutiny for such misbehavior. In 2004 he paid a multimillion dollar settlement to a former producer, Andrea Mackris, who alleged that he harassed her. Plus, he has been accused by his own children of physically assaulting his ex-wife, an act for which he lost custody of his kids.
There appears to be an environment at Fox News that allows for the toleration of this sort of abuse. It’s part of a pattern of behavior where women are exploited and on and off camera. In the Ailes era female anchors were forbidden to wear pants on sets without desks. To say nothing of the infamous “leg cam” that was deployed to feature the assets of their mostly young, blonde presenters. Ailes biographer Gabriel Sherman documented some of the techniques Fox employed to satisfy their largely male audience in his book “The Loudest Voice In The Room.” For instance:
- When the view of reporter Kiran Chetry was obstructed, Ailes called the control booth to demand that they “Move that damn laptop, I can’t see her legs!”
- Ailes complained about host Catherine Crier’s attire saying that “I did not spend x-number of dollars on a glass desk for her to wear pant suits.”
- The casting of The Five included one particular co-host because “I Need The Leg. That’s Andrea Tantaros.”
Even former Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly got reeled in. She recently revealed her own experiences with sexual harassment by Ailes and left Fox to join NBC News. But in a revealing pictorial for GQ Magazine a few years ago, her appearance was very much a part of Fox’s marketing. She was asked about her own “glass table that shows off your legs.” She responded that “Well, It’s a visual business. People want to see the anchor.” That must be why Bill O’Reilly wears those low-cut blouses.
How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.