Gretchen Carlson, former co-host of the Fox News program “Fox & Friends” who was demoted three years ago and fired last month, has filed a sexual harassment suit against Fox chairman Roger Ailes.
Carlson alleges she was taken off “Fox & Friends” after complaining about sexist and condescending treatment by co-host Steve Doocy, and was fired last month for refusing Ailes’ sexual advances.
The suit, which does not name Fox as a co-defendant, portrays Ailes as a loutish and serial sex harasser, accusing him of ogling Carlson in his office, calling her “sexy” and making sexually charged comments about her appearance.
“Gretchen Carlson’s allegations are false,” Ailes said in a statement Wednesday, calling the action a “retaliatory suit for the network’s decision not to renew her contract…This defamatory lawsuit is not only offensive, it is wholly without merit and will be defended vigorously.”
Ailes guided the network from its inception to a highly profitable business for parent company 21st Century Fox, and he signed a new long-term contract last year. The parent company said it will conduct an internal investigation of the charges alleged in the suit. Carlson’s lawyers claim more than 10 women have come forward with similar complaints.
Fox, which likes to portray itself as a defender of traditional family values, has been the center of sexual harassment charges in the past, including a 2004 suit against network star Bill O’Reilly brought by a producer at Fox, Andrea Machris.
O’Reilly often lectures his audience about too much sex in pop culture and criticizes men for abandoning their children, but Machris’ suit painted another picture, alleging she was subjected to long telephone calls from her boss in which he spoke about sexual fantasies, masturbation and vibrators while “sometimes seeming to pleasure himself.”
O’Reilly loudly proclaimed his innocence, said he would never settle out of court, and filed a counter suit against Machris alleging extortion. He eventually dropped the suit and settled with Machris for several million dollars. Fox, a co-defendant in the suit, believed Machris had recordings of her conversations with O’Reilly.
O’Reilly, sometimes mockingly referred to as “Mr. Family Values,” was married with two children at the time. He and his wife, Maureen, split in 2010 and were divorced in 2011. They had joint custody of their children, but his ex-wife returned to court in 2012 to gain full custody, alleging O’Reilly was an abusive and absent father when the children lived with him. After a long court fight, she was granted full custody.