After getting rid of the men long in charge of the network’s infamous culture of sexual harassment and exploitation, Fox News got its first female chief executive officer Thursday.
Her name, however, is all-too-familiar to women who accused the network’s executives of protecting its powerful stars from accusations of rampant sexual misconduct.
This morning, 21st Century Fox Chairman Lachlan Murdoch announced that Suzanne Scott will take over as the network’s first female CEO—making her the first female chief of any major TV news organization. She was promoted to Fox News’ head of programming just last year, following the exit of longtime Ailes henchman Bill Shine.
“Suzanne has been instrumental in the success of Fox News and she has now made history as its first female CEO,” Murdoch said of Scott, a 22-year Fox veteran who rose up the ranks from programming assistant to executive producer to CEO. “Her vision and innovation have helped create some of the most popular and lucrative prime-time programs on cable and... I am confident that Suzanne’s leadership will ensure the dominance of both Fox News & [Fox Business Network] for years to come.”
Unmentioned in the glowing press release, however, was the fact that Scott was named in multiple ex-network stars’ lawsuits as having played a role in upholding ex-CEO Ailes’ culture of sexual harassment and gender discrimination.
After former host Gretchen Carlson dropped a bombshell sexual-harassment lawsuit in July 2016, ultimately ending Ailes’ career, Scott was allegedly among the prominent Ailes confidantes who recruited Fox News staff and contributors to publicly retaliate against Carlson with disparaging remarks about her credibility.
According to former on-air personality Julie Roginsky, who sued the network over sexual harassment and gender discrimination, Scott was among those who helped lead a pro-Ailes propaganda effort and “characterized this retaliatory onslaught as supporting ‘Team Roger.’”
New York magazine reporter Gabriel Sherman further confirmed that claim, writing in May 2017: “After Gretchen Carlson filed lawsuit against Ailes, Suzanne Scott helped rally Fox women to trash Gretchen & support Ailes publicly.”
For her part, Scott vehemently denied the allegations.
Additionally, ex-host Andrea Tantaros named Scott as a co-defendant in her 2016 sexual-harassment lawsuit against the network. Ailes’ systematic abuse of female staffers was “condoned by his most senior lieutenants, who engaged in a concerted effort to silence Tantaros by threats, humiliation, and retaliation.”
Tantaros additionally charged that her attempts to meet with Scott to discuss the hostile conditions went ignored.
Furthermore, The Daily Beast’s Lloyd Grove reported that under Ailes’ oversight, Scott was tasked with enforcing the network’s sexually charged on-air aesthetic. “Scott enforces with the wardrobe and makeup departments an aesthetic that features skimpy dresses, high-heeled open-toed shoes, and big hair for the channel’s on-air women,” revealed Grove’s interviews with multiple ex-staffers.
Scott was promoted to president of programming this time last year, despite reported internal and external protests. One former staffer described Scott as “a nightmare—just as bad as the rest,” NPR media reporter David Folkenflik wrote last year. “‘Worse than Shine’ in deflecting concerns of women,” he said a current Fox staffer told him.
Yet Scott escaped Fox’s series of scandals largely unharmed.
And a Fox News spokesperson pointed out that, following Ailes’ departure, Scott has spearheaded or encouraged efforts to reform the network’s culture, including: quarterly addresses to all employees; internal women’s events focusing on their role in the newsroom; mandatory annual in-person sexual-harassment training; a newly expanded human-resources team; diversity and inclusion councils; and a larger number of women in high-level executive positions overseeing ad sales, finance, and legal departments.