Long-time Fox News CEO Roger Ailes has resigned his position as he faces mounted pressure from a sexual harassment lawsuit which could see accusations from at least 20 women.
The lawsuit was initially filed by Gretchen Carlson, a former Fox News anchor whose show was cancelled on June 23. And on Twitter, Carlson celebrated the news of Ailes’s departure, stating “Thx 2all the #brave women who decided 2also come forward about #RogerAiles.”
— Gretchen Carlson (@GretchenCarlson) 21 July 2016
Ailes’s questionable moves
Ailes’s resignation does not necessarily mean that he did what Carlson alleges. In his resignation letter to Rupert Murdoch, Ailes wrote the following.
“I will not allow my presence to become a distraction from the work that must be done every day to ensure that Fox News and Fox Business continue to lead our industry.”
If the suit becomes prolonged, it would be in Fox’s best interests for Ailes to depart quickly regardless of the outcome. But since Carlson filed her lawsuit, many former Fox News workers have come forward to talk about receiving harassment from Ailes. In many cases, Ailes crudely stated that if the women wanted to advance their career, they would need to sleep with him.
In addition to these accusations, prominent Fox News anchor, Megyn Kelly, has apparently told investigators in detail about an incident where Ailes harassed her about 10 years ago when she was a young contributor. And while other Fox News anchors such as Brit Hume or Greta van Sustern have leaped to defend Ailes and praise him for making Fox News the large cable network it is, Kelly has been noticeably quiet on the lawsuit.
Believing harassment victims.
Ailes has denied all charges of sexual harassment. In a statement to the press, he observed that Carlson waited until her show was cancelled before she chose to file a lawsuit, which shows that she is just seeking a way to stay relevant afterwards.
But while Fox News anchors and conservatives are defending Ailes, the fact that he had to resign at all shows that the public is more willing to believe accusations of sexual harassment compared to the past.
Slate compared the fall of Ailes to the Bill Cosby sexual harassment case, where the once-beloved TV star is now reviled and mocked for his past sexual misdeeds. Cosby may have been able to squash such accusations in the past, especially in a world where it would be more difficult for different victims to contact one another and work out a plan. But today, the weight of so many accusations can serve to take down figures even as prominent as Roger Ailes and Bill Cosby.
What next for Ailes?
Roger Ailes may have resigned his position with Fox News, but it is clear that he and Murdoch departed on amicable terms. Fox News will be paying for Ailes’s legal bills.
They probably do not need to. Carlson’s lawsuit is targeted at Ailes and not Fox News, but she could possibly sue the network if she believed that it helped Ailes cover up sexual harassment accusations or failed to take action against him earlier. However, Carlson’s lawyers have indicated that they do not plan to target Fox News, as they told the Hollywood Reporter that Carlson had no reason to believe “Fox News authorized Mr. Ailes to behave this way or condoned it in anyway.”
Even if Fox News will not be directly harmed by the lawsuit, it would be highly embarrassing for the network if Ailes was to be found guilty. Political opponents of Fox News have long looked for a chance to take down Ailes and discredit Fox News at the same time, and Carlson’s lawsuit could give them a prime opportunity.
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