Gretchen Carlson Crushes Roger Ailes
The former Fox News anchor scored a victory—and the former head of Fox News a corresponding defeat—when she won a $20 million settlement of her lawsuit against Ailes.
In a stunning victory for fired Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson, and a crushing defeat for ousted Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes, Carlson celebrated a $20 million payday Tuesday, settling her sensational lawsuit a mere two months after she filed it against the conservative-leaning cable outlet’s founder, accusing him of sexual harassment and retaliation for rebuffing his sexual demands.
“I’m ready to move on to the next chapter of my life in which I will redouble my efforts to empower women in the workplace,” a jubilant Carlson said in a statement released Tuesday morning by her attorney, Nancy Erika Smith. “I want to thank all the brave women who came forward to tell their stories and the many people across the country who embraced and supported me … All women deserve a dignified and respectful workplace.”
21st Century Fox, the top-rated and hugely profitable cable outlet’s parent company run by Rupert Murdoch and his sons James and Lachlan, apologized to Carlson in its own statement, also released by Smith: “We sincerely regret and apologize for the fact that Gretchen was not treated with the respect and dignity that she and all of our colleagues deserve.”
The Murdochs’ corporate statement—obviously negotiated to Carlson’s immense satisfaction—added: “During her tenure at Fox News, Gretchen exhibited the highest standards of journalism and professionalism. She developed a loyal audience and was a daily source of information for many Americans. We are proud that she was part of the Fox News team.”
Carlson, for her part, praised 21st Century Fox for its “decisive action after I filed my Complaint,” including ordering an internal review of her allegations by the blue chip law firm Paul, Weiss, and orchestrating Ailes’s departure a mere two weeks after she went public with her allegations, which prompted dozens of other women to come forward with similar stories about Ailes’s alleged misconduct over a period of four decades, dating back to his days as an executive producer on the syndicated daytime Mike Douglas Show.
The Daily Beast independently confirmed Carlson’s eye-popping settlement figure, first reported by Vanity Fair, but the 76-year-old Ailes—who received a reported $40 million severance package as part of his forced resignation on July 21— apparently will not be personally liable for any part of the dazzling sum. One of his attorneys, Susan Estrich, responded “No,” in an email when asked if Ailes would be anteing up. “Mr. Ailes will not be contributing anything to the Carlson settlement.”
As part of the settlement agreement, Carlson filed a notice of voluntary dismissal of her lawsuit Tuesday morning in New Jersey federal court.
In another, possibly related development on Tuesday, Fox News announced that Ailes loyalist Greta Van Susteren, one of the outlet’s on-air stars for the past 14 years, is leaving the network and her 7 p.m. show effective immediately. While a source close to the situation said she was departing because of a financial dispute with Fox News’s new management, former Ailes deputy Bill Shine and Fox television executive Jack Abernethy, the 62-year-old Van Susteren, who was in the midst of a long-term deal and had a “key man” provision in her contract allowing her to depart if Ailes was not present, was one of his staunchest defenders in the wake of Carlson’s and other women’s allegations.
A day after the lawsuit was filed, Van Susteren told The Daily Beast, “I’ve been in his office a million times. I’ve had lunch, I’ve had Diet Cokes, I’ve been around him. He just doesn’t do this stuff. You know how corporations gossip. If this were going on, I would have heard about it.”
About Carlson, Van Susteren said, “I feel bad for her. I imagine she’s quite unhappy that her contract wasn’t renewed.”
Ailes, who has been helping Republican nominee Donald Trump prepare for the upcoming televised presidential debates opposite Hillary Clinton, has been threatening to sue New York magazine for its extensive reporting on his alleged behavior regarding Carlson and other female Fox News staffers—a threat that likely is undermined by Tuesday’s developments, in which 21st Century Fox characterized Carlson’s complaint as “fact.”
Ailes recently hired celebrity attorney Charles Harder, who helped Hulk Hogan (real name: Terry Bollea) win a $1401.1 million judgment against Gawker Media for publishing a sex video featuring Bollea, and Harder on Friday sent a letter to New York magazine and its national affairs editor, Gabriel Sherman, the author of an Ailes biography who has been breaking many of the recent stories, demanding that they preserve records and notes of his reporting on Ailes in the event his client files a defamation suit.
Harder’s letter arrived the same day that New York published Sherman’s detailed and damning expose of Ailes’s alleged behavior during his 20 years at Fox News, and a corporate culture of cover-up and paranoia that seemed to enable such misconduct.
Carlson, a 50-year-old former Miss America who during her 11 years at Fox was a cohost of the popular morning show Fox & Friends and anchor of her own afternoon program, The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson, was abruptly fired on June 23 and filed her lawsuit on July 6.
In her complaint, she quoted Ailes as telling her during a September 2015 meeting to discuss her career, “I think you and I should have had a sexual relationship a long time ago and then you’d be good and better and I’d be good and better.” Her lawsuit also alleged that Ailes “ogl[ed] her in his office and ask[ed] her to turn around so he could view her posterior”; “comment[ed] repeatedly about Carlson’s legs”; “stat[ed] ‘I’m sure you can do sweet nothings when you want to,’ among other off-color remarks.”
According to Sherman’s reporting, Carlson had been secretly recording Ailes’s inappropriate remarks during business meetings with her iPhone.
The impact of Tuesday’s settlement agreement on the fate of Steve Doocy, Carlson’s former Fox & Friends cohost who still anchors the program, was unclear.
21st Century Fox’s announcement of its internal review, the day Carlson filed her lawsuit, explicitly cited Doocy, who Carlson claimed consistently undermined her, creating “a hostile work environment by regularly treating her in a sexist and condescending way, including by putting his hand on her and pulling down her arm to shush her during a live telecast … mocking her during commercial breaks, shunning her off air, refusing to engage with her on air, belittling her contributions to the show,” and other uncollegial behavior.