Paid Political Commentator Files Sexual Harassment Suit Against Ailes

Apr 3, 2017
Originally published on April 3, 2017 12:14 pm

A lawsuit filed on Monday morning by a paid political commentator for the Fox News Channel alleges the network's past chairman, Roger Ailes, made unwanted sexual advances while holding out the possibility of a big promotion.

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Fox News and its former chairman, Roger Ailes, are facing another sexual harassment suit. Fox News contributor Julie Roginsky alleges that Ailes made unwanted sexual advances while holding a big promotion in front of her. The suit says Ailes repeatedly praised Roginsky's looks and sought to get her to join him for drinks in his office. NPR's media correspondent David Folkenflik has been following the story this morning. Hey, David.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Hey, David.

GREENE: Let's just get some background here. These are not the first charges like this against Ailes. What does Roginsky allege here? And how exactly does it stack up against the previous cases we've seen?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, she said that he repeatedly enticed her with the prospect of a hosting job, a permanent job, which would be a significant bump up from her position as a paid contributor, a significant bump in pay but also in profile - let her get, you know, more revenue in book deals or speaking engagements alike - and said that she would be a perfect fit to be a host for "The Five," and even suggested when Bob Beckel was about to be fired by Fox, which he was subsequently in June of 2015, that that job would be lined up for her.

She basically said no, I'm not going to join you for drinks. He had said, well, let's do it my office because we would otherwise get in so much trouble. She said that's not going to happen. He curtailed the conversation, never talked again about the job and, in fact, never agreed to another meeting with her.

GREENE: So what - how many accusations are there? What is the state of play here? And what sort of legal situation are Ailes and the network in right now?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, obviously, this all broke open last summer, when Gretchen Carlson, a former Fox News host, made similar allegations and had Ailes on tape. And that set forth a kind of inquiry launched by the network in which a number of women came forward. It turns out Laurie Dhue, as reported by The New York Times, another former Fox News anchor, said she'd been assault - excuse me - sexually harassed by him. Other women have come forward.

It turned out that Ailes had - and Fox News had paid over $3 million to a former senior booker at Fox News who had alleged that he had made her perform sexual acts over a period of more than two decades in exchange for job advancement and also as part of a blackmail scheme. You know, there are just a series of these mounting accusations that have launched up. I should say that Ailes, to date, has denied all previous accusations against him. And his lawyer has not yet released a response to me this morning.

GREENE: OK, so denying all of the other accusations, waiting for some kind of response today. You know, David, Fox News and its corporate parent, amid all of those other inquiries you're talking about, you know, argue that they've been able to change the culture at the network. Roginsky says that's not true. What does she say it's like?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, she said she was retaliated against by Bill Shine, the president now of Fox News and a longtime Ailes deputy, and also by Dianne Brandi, the general counsel, top lawyer for Fox News, first for failing to support Ailes when Gretchen Carlson made her first accusations and then - publicly defend Ailes, that is - and then for raising these concerns against Ailes. She said she was passed over for promotions for which she was entitled as a result of making these complaints about his behavior known.

GREENE: Such an interesting moment because we have these accusations for Fox News and this shadow cast in a way. But this is also - I mean, it's heady times for this news network, I mean, record profits. And the ratings are good, right?

FOLKENFLIK: They've been riding the Trump train really well to astonishing ratings and profits. And at the same time, off the air, you know, they have an increasing number of these accusations against Roger Ailes. Their star host, Bill O'Reilly has received increased scrutiny of late, thanks to The New York Times, where there's been increased awareness of the number of women that he's paid after they made accusations, accusations he denies.

And also, there's a racial discrimination lawsuit that is based on claims that led to the recent dismissal of Fox's chief comptroller, who had served the network for a long time. So a lot of things pressed, a lot of scandals happening even as they're getting a lot of success on the air.

GREENE: OK, NPR's media correspondent David Folkenflik talking to us and reporting from New York City this morning. David, thanks a lot.

FOLKENFLIK: You bet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.