The Hamilton Spectator - - GO - MAR­GARET SUL­LI­VAN Wash­ing­ton Post

Af­ter a pro­fes­sional life spent speak­ing be­fore TV cam­eras, for­mer Fox News host Gretchen Carl­son isn’t of­ten at a loss for words.

But when I asked her how she felt as she watched Roger Ailes — per­haps the most pow­er­ful me­dia fig­ure in Amer­ica — step down as Fox News chief only two weeks af­ter she had sued him for sex­ual ha­rass­ment, she searched for the right de­scrip­tion.

“At first, sat­is­fac­tion, or no, I think val­i­da­tion,” she said. And then, she added, a new round of emo­tion came rush­ing in over the sex­ual ha­rass­ment she says she en­dured while work­ing for Ailes. “I felt an­gry that it took so long.”

“It’s com­pli­cated — there was re­lief that now I would be be­lieved — and I was happy to a cer­tain ex­tent over that.”

Was there any sad­ness or re­gret over Ailes’ fate, given their long work­ing re­la­tion­ship? Here, Carl­son ex­pressed noth­ing com­pli­cated, an­swer­ing in a sin­gle word: “No.”

In her first in­ter­view since Ailes, 76, left his post un­der pres­sure more than a week ago, Carl­son de­scribed the “sur­real ex­pe­ri­ence” of life since she filed suit on July 6.

Her ma­jor fo­cus, she said, has been on in­su­lat­ing her two chil­dren — a 13-year-old girl and 11-year-old boy — from the up­roar.

“I’m just try­ing to keep things as nor­mal as pos­si­ble and be a mom,” she said.

Carl­son, 50, is a for­mer Miss Amer­ica and an hon­ours grad­u­ate of Stan­ford Univer­sity who joined Fox News in 2005, af­ter a stint at CBS.

The night be­fore the news of her suit went pub­lic — and vi­ral — she and her husband sat their chil­dren down and talked about what was com­ing, and gave a gen­eral idea of why. But she said, “they don’t need to know the de­tails right now.”

Those de­tails in­clude her suit’s claims that Ailes re­peat­edly sought a sex­ual re­la­tion­ship with Carl­son, and threat­ened pro­fes­sional harm if she didn’t com­ply. (“You’d be good and bet­ter, and I’d be good and bet­ter,” if they had sex — some­thing that should have hap­pened a long time ago, Ailes said, ac­cord­ing to Carl­son’s com­plaint.)

Carl­son has said that her ob­jec­tions and re­fusal to com­ply caused her to be de­moted in 2013. She was moved from her long­time co­host­ing po­si­tion on the morn­ing show, “Fox & Friends,” to an af­ter­noon slot, and her pay was cut.

Carl­son and her lawyer, Nancy Erika Smith, pushed back against the crit­i­cism that her suit is re­tal­i­a­tion for be­ing fired by Fox in June.

Ailes, through his lawyer, has re­peat­edly and ve­he­mently de­nied ever sex­u­ally ha­rass­ing Carl­son — or any of the other women (now well over a dozen) who have come for­ward to de­scribe sim­i­lar be­hav­iour by Ailes. They have also em­pha­sized that many of these claims are old and made anony­mously.

21st Cen­tury Fox, run by Ru­pert Mur­doch and his sons, did not tie Ailes’ res­ig­na­tion to the ha­rass­ment claims; but they had au­tho­rized an in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion by a prom­i­nent law firm that re­port­edly turned up many sim­i­lar sto­ries in­side Fox News.

Carl­son and Smith would not pro­vide a spe­cific time­line, but they said that they had be­gun pre­par­ing a suit well be­fore Carl­son’s fir­ing in late June, and that she had made an in­ter­nal com­plaint at Fox some time ago.

Smith dis­missed the crit­i­cism about tim­ing: “The great ma­jor­ity of em­ploy­ment cases of all types, in­clud­ing sex­ual ha­rass­ment, are filed when the em­ployee has no choice — she has been fired.”

Carl­son said that while still work­ing at Fox, she hung on to “that glim­mer of hope that the pun­ish­ment would stop, and that my work would be rec­og­nized.” She said she meant the pun­ish­ment for mak­ing a com­plaint, but Smith added an­other el­e­ment: That she was also be­ing pun­ished “for not suc­cumb­ing” to Ailes’ sex­ual de­mands — “we know that would have changed things.”

I asked Carl­son how she re­acted to news re­ports that Fox News star Megyn Kelly, af­ter a pe­riod of si­lence, had told in­ter­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tors that Ailes had ha­rassed her, too.

Many ob­servers saw this as the fi­nal straw that caused Ailes to be de­posed. (Ailes’ at­tor­ney has stated that he never ha­rassed Kelly and that he was a ma­jor force be­hind her suc­cess at Fox.)

“I ap­pre­ci­ated that she told the truth, and I know it was risky,” Carl­son said, but she dis­agreed that Kelly’s state­ments made all the dif­fer­ence. It was “the mul­ti­tude of women” who started to come for­ward, cre­at­ing a crit­i­cal mass that could no longer be ig­nored.

“I thought I would be fight­ing this all by my­self,” she said. So when other women be­gan to tell their sto­ries, some with their names at­tached, there was pro­found re­lief and a sense of sup­port.

She said she’s also been heart­ened and buoyed by the re­ac­tion of women every­where, some of whom have been tweet­ing with the hash­tag #stand­with­Gretchen.

Con­versely, she was dis­turbed by the pub­lic state­ments of some Fox News women and men who came for­ward in the first few days to say glow­ing things about Ailes’ char­ac­ter, sug­gest­ing that he could never have en­gaged in sex­ual ha­rass­ment.

“Some of them were lawyers. They should have known bet­ter, so I was sur­prised. It was like, ‘Wow, you have no idea what you’re talk­ing about,” she said.

“But I was at Fox a long time. I know how it works. You could sense that it all was or­ches­trated.”

She and Smith re­ferred to Gabriel Sher­man’s book, “The Loud­est Voice in the Room,” which de­scribed how Fox News, un­der Ailes, would coun­ter­at­tack crit­ics ag­gres­sively. (Many of the women who com­plained about Ailes re­cently spoke to Sher­man, who writes for New York mag­a­zine.)

I asked Carl­son if she thought the events of the past three weeks should em­bolden vic­tims of sex­ual ha­rass­ment to come for­ward.

“We’ve moved the con­ver­sa­tion, but we haven’t changed the world in three weeks,” she said. “I don’t want to tell women they won’t be re­tal­i­ated against.”

Her lawyer warned of the “nuts and sluts” at­tacks that of­ten fol­low sex­ual ha­rass­ment claims. Women are por­trayed as un­sta­ble or im­moral if they have lived any­thing other than the life of a clois­tered nun, Smith said.

What could be done to de­feat the prob­lem?

“One of the big parts of this equa­tion is men. It will take men to change the en­vi­ron­ment, too,” Carl­son said. As she thinks about the lessons for her chil­dren, she finds her­self more fo­cused on her son.

“It’s paramount that he sees me in an en­vi­ron­ment where I’m re­spected,” she said.

“And that men treat their col­leagues like they would want to see their mother treated.”

Mar­garet Sul­li­van is The Wash­ing­ton Post’s me­dia colum­nist.


Gretchen Carl­son: “One of the big parts of this equa­tion is men. It will take men to change the en­vi­ron­ment, too,” Carl­son said.

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