CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota revealed on Sunday that former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes sexually harassed her when she was an anchor at the network.
Having left the network just three years ago, Camerota maintained that it wasn’t right to criticize her former employer. But this week, she said, was the “tipping point,” after Fox’s star anchor and ratings juggernaut Bill O’Reilly was pushed out amid similar charges of sexual harassment by current and former Fox employees.
“It feels as though, if I take the Murdochs at their word, they really want to know what was wrong there and what the culture was like, and I don’t know how you get that from silence,” Camerota, who left Fox in 2014 for CNN, said Sunday on CNN’s Reliable Sources.
“Roger Ailes did sexually harass me,” she declared.
Allegations of harassment mounted last year against Ailes before he was ousted, and O’Reilly lost his job last week after advertisers bolted from his primetime program. Both men have denied the allegations against them.
“Roger Ailes was—could be charming. He could be quite charismatic. He could be uproariously funny. He could also be a bit of a bully, and mean. And he also was often kind of grossly inappropriate with things that he would say, and I think that many of us experienced that,” Camerota said. “He would talk about body parts. He would say, ‘Give me a spin.’ He would want to be greeted with a hug.”
When Camerota first started out at the network, she said Ailes once suggested that the pair go to a hotel together to work “really closely” and “get to know each other better.” She remembers wondering whether she would be fired if she rebuffed his advances.
“When it happens, there is a visceral reaction that you have where you recognize, my career and everything I’ve worked for is under threat, and I don’t know what’s going to happen next,” she said.
The conservative ideology was strictly enforced at Fox, despite its vow to be “fair and balanced,” Camerota added. Ailes, a former Republican political strategist, thought “liberals were always wrong, conservatives were generally right, and that’s what he felt that we should be reflecting on the air,” she added.
“Roger Ailes ruled with an iron fist. And he wanted us all to fall in line and have his world view and say the things that he wanted us to say on Fox News. And he targeted me because he sort of figured out early on that I didn’t share his world view and he said, ‘You’re not saying the conservative things that I want you to say and you could be a real model and you could be a real star if only you could sound conservative sometimes,’” Camerota recalled. She told Ailes it would break her vow as a journalist if she took a side.
When instances of harassment and intimidation mounted, Camerota “started refusing to go to Roger’s office.” She said Ailes’ behavior factored into her decision to leave the network.
Camerota said she was never harassed by O’Reilly, and added that Fox is not “rotten at its core” despite the recent shake-ups. “There are tons of good people there. There are real journalists. They are trying to do their jobs,” she said.