On Fresh Air yesterday, a guy who wrote a book about Roger Ailes. Roger Ailes resigned last week as CEO of Fox News on account of a flood of accusations of sexual harassment. It turns out it was all very open – women had to say Yes to the Harassment if they wanted to get anywhere at Fox.
GROSS: So sum up where we are now in terms of how many women have come forward alleging that they were sexually harassed by Ailes or by somebody else at Fox News. And I should say, we’re recording this at 9:00 in the morning. And I’m not sure if that number is going to change by the end of the day.
[Gabriel] SHERMAN: Well, Terry, where we are now since Gretchen Carlson filed her, really, landmark lawsuit on July 6 is that 25 women have come forward to the outside law firm Paul, Weiss, that was hired by 21st Century Fox to investigate the sexual harassment allegations. By my reporting, more than 25 women have come forward to allege their experiences of harassment at Fox. And this number could be growing by the day. The lawyers are hearing from women.
And I think there’s a fear inside the company that this could snowball into – I mean, it’s already a shocking scandal, but that, you know, dozens of more women could come forward. And then you really have to start to question, did Roger Ailes preside over a culture that was not only – it tolerated sexual harassment, but it was almost built to encourage it?
And the answer is yes, he did.
GROSS: How many women have you spoken with about their charges?
SHERMAN: Well, I’ve spoken with more than 15 women who have had experiences of sexual harassment and unwanted sexual advances by Roger Ailes over the years. And, you know, I just want to step back for a second, Terry, because what’s so, in a sense, sad about this story is that when it broke in July – on July, 6, with Gretchen Carlson’s lawsuit, I wasn’t surprised because in my biography of Roger Ailes that was published in 2014, I detailed multiple instances of sexual harassment. I quoted a very brave woman named Randi Harrison on the record who said that when she was a young producer at NBC in the 1980s, Roger Ailes said that he would give her a raise of $100 a week in exchange for sex whenever he wanted.
And this was, you know, shocking. This was all published back in 2014, and it didn’t quite make the wave that I thought it might. And so this story that’s, you know, exploded into a national scandal – sometimes, I guess, it just takes the right moment for the public to pay attention. But I, again, have, you know – over the years, I’ve interviewed more than 20 women who have had these types of experiences with Ailes. And you know, again, that – to me, it just seems like the tip of the iceberg.
GROSS: I want to emphasize here that Roger Ailes has denied the allegations of sexual harassment.
Of course he has. They think they have a right to demand access to women’s holes, and they don’t consider that sexual harassment. Of course they deny it.
Then again, Shermans says Ailes’s attorney threatened one of the women, and that doesn’t sound like innocence.
And so this culture of intimidation, you know, that – to me, that does not strike me as a man that is – that knows he’s innocent. It strikes me as a man that is, again, attempting to preserve this wall of silence that he’s built around himself.
But I bet he does think he hasn’t done a damn thing wrong. I bet he thinks he has every right to coerce women to have sex with him.
GROSS: Give us a sense of the allegations of the women who have worked at Fox News with Roger Ailes.
SHERMAN: Well, Terry, I think that the most important thing to stress is that this is not about – well, it is about Roger Ailes. It’s not about Roger Ailes. It’s about a culture – a television news network that played a undeniable role in reshaping American politics over the last 20 years. And it was a culture where this type of behavior was was encouraged and protected. The allegations are that women routinely had to sleep with or be propositioned by their manager – in many cases, Roger Ailes, but I’ve reported on another manager who did this – in exchange for promotions.
And so this is a culture where women felt pressured to participate in sexual activity with their superiors if they wanted to advance inside the company. And it was so – it was shocking to me – it was not that it occurred, but that it was so explicit, that it was – there was no subtext. There was no subtlety to it. It was just there. It was just almost blatantly stated. If you want this, you have to have sex with me or allow me to make sexually unwanted comments about you. And it was so blatant that it’s almost now unbelievable. But it – we’re learning more and more every day. This is what women who worked there had to endure for the last 20 years.
That’s Fox News, which has done so much to ruin the political discourse in this country.