By Ronny Valdes
This “Whistleblower Spotlight” features the Roger Ailes sexual harassment whistleblowers, who collectively are one of our candidates for 2016 Whistleblower of the Year. They are a group of more than twenty accusers that alleged sexual harassment or misconduct against former Fox News chief Roger Ailes. The two most prominent accusers are former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson and current Fox News host Megyn Kelly.
Other accusers include former Fox News employees Laurie Luhn, Andrea Tantaros, and Rudi Bakhtiar; former Republican National Committee field adviser Kellie Boyle; and former model Marsha Callahan. Gretchen Carlson led the charge by filing a lawsuit against Ailes in July 2016 for retaliation after speaking up about alleged sexist treatment by Ailes while working at Fox News. Over time the other accusers came forward eventually leading to Ailes’ resignation as Chairman and CEO of Fox News.
Gretchen Carlson was a Fox News anchor from 2005 until 2016. In her lawsuit against Ailes she alleged that he consistently made unwanted sexual advances towards her and retaliated against her when she refused. The unwanted sexual advances alleged in Carlson’s complaint included asking Carlson to turn around so he could view her posterior, telling Carlson she was “sexy” but “too much hard work,” and by stating in a September 2015 meeting that “I think you and I should have had a sexual relationship a long time ago.”
Carlson alleged that her refusal to acquiesce to Ailes’ advances resulted in her being removed from her successful morning time slot on Fox News and eventually led to her contract being terminated in June 2016. Carlson recorded her conversations with Ailes on her mobile phone and Carlson later settled her case with Fox News’ parent company paying a $20 million settlement. The Carlson allegations led to other accusers coming forward.
During the fallout from the Gretchen Carlson accusations, Megyn Kelly, like other Fox News employees, was expected to defend Ailes but refused to do so. Kelly later came forward with her own allegations of sexual harassment against Ailes. Kelly added a chapter to her recently released book “Settle for More” where she detailed Ailes’ alleged sexual advances. Kelly points to a six month period in 2006 where Ailes allegedly offered to advance her career in exchange for sexual favors and made unwanted physical advances against her including attempting to grab and kiss Kelly. Kelly alleged that the harassment only ended when she reported Ailes to a supervisor.
Studies have shown that sexual harassment in the workplace often goes unreported. A survey conducted by The Huffington Post and YouGov surveyed one thousand people and found that 70% of those who experienced sexual harassment did not report it. Many women and men who experience sexual harassment in the workplace often fear retaliation by their employers or shame after suffering the harassment leading to a decline in reporting. Carlson, Kelly, and all of the accusers brought forth their allegations at great personal and professional risk against a very influential man in the media. By bringing these allegations to light, these women demonstrated courage in the face of a difficult situation. For this courage, these women collectively are a nominee for the 2016 Whistleblower of the Year.
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