UPDATED 7/7/16 7:19 a.m. to include statement from Fox News.
Gretchen Carlson, the recently fired Fox News anchor who on Wednesday filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the network’s CEO and chairman, Roger Ailes, has written before about being subjected to unwelcome on-the-job advances, grossly sexist treatment, and unwanted touching.
In an essay published last June in the Huffington Post, Carlson recounted early experiences with sexual harassment as a Miss America winner seeking to parlay her fame into a career in news. She recalled being forcibly kissed by a top TV executive after a meeting, and having a PR executive who also claimed to want to advance her career in journalism force her head into his crotch in his car on their way to dinner. In another instance, a cameraman at the Richmond, Virginia station where she started her career made comments about her breasts.
Carlson recounted blaming herself for these incidents, saying she “stayed silent” out of the fear she “wouldn’t be believed.” The men who harassed her “were powerful” while she “had no power.”
“Like so many young women who are the victims of harassment, I worried for months that I had invited his advances in some way, or worse, that people would think I had,” she wrote of the incident with the Virginia cameraman. “I hadn’t done anything wrong, but still I felt shame.”
Carlson said her essay and 2015 memoir “Getting Real” were the first places she spoke out about these experiences, and that more women needed to do so in order to remove the stigma around workplace sexual harassment.
“Even with laws and HR departments, we’re unfortunately not at a place where we can say absolutely that a woman who is harassed will be protected from repercussions if she tells,” she wrote. “Those repercussions aren’t just the obvious trauma of being publicly involved in a scandal. They can be more insidious — an aura of doubt about her reliability, her stability and her toughness that could have an impact on her career growth. No wonder most women just prefer to move on and not tell.”
According to the lawsuit Carlson filed against Ailes, she had already experienced numerous instances of sexual harassment while at Fox News by the time this essay was published. She charged that her former co-host on “Fox & Friends,” Steve Doocy, behaved in a “sexist and condescending way” towards her during her seven-and-a-half years on the show, belittling her contributions and treating her as a “blond female prop.” When Ailes caught wind of these complaints, she alleged, he called her a “man hater” and responded by demoting her and substantially reducing her compensation.
The harassment allegedly continued after Carlson took over her own show in 2013, with Ailes himself ogling her, commenting on her body, and, when she raised the complaints, saying her problems at the network would go away if she agreed to have a sexual relationship with him. She claimed she was fired on June 23, 2016 because of her continued refusal to do so.
None of those incidents were mentioned in her 2015 Huffington Post essay.
Ailes vehemently denied the allegations in a statement issued late Wednesday:
“Gretchen Carlson’s allegations are false. This is a retaliatory suit for the network’s decision not to renew her contract, which was due to the fact that her disappointingly low ratings were dragging down the afternoon lineup. When Fox News did not commence any negotiations to renew her contract, Ms. Carlson became aware that her career with the network was likely over and conveniently began to pursue a lawsuit. Ironically, FOX News provided her with more on-air opportunities over her 11 year tenure than any other employer in the industry, for which she thanked me in her recent book. This defamatory lawsuit is not only offensive, it is wholly without merit and will be defended vigorously.”