That’s a headline I had been planning to write for most of this month, but the crush of daily life kept me from it. And then, day by day the story kept growing until today we learn that the sexual harassment suit filed by the former Fox News anchor against the odious Roger Ailes has led to his departure as the head of that conservative cable news network.
I don’t remember Carlson as a presence on CBS, and I certainly never saw her on Fox because I make it a point of personal pride to absolutely never watch that channel. Oh wait, I did tune in once during the most recent presidential primaries to watch a Republican debate. But I left before it ended, turned off by the sycophantic questions and reactions of the moderators.
(I suppose conservatives have a similar attitude toward my news channel of choice, the liberal MSNBC (“The Place for Politics”) and that’s just how it is in our nation’s bifurcated political climate. Even among friends, it’s much more pleasant to discuss politics with those you agree with.)
When the news broke that the recently fired Carlson was suing Ailes for sexual harassment, I took notice and thought, “Women everywhere must be quietly cheering her action.” And I read more about her. Aside from the fact that the newspaper photos showed her to be drop-dead gorgeous to look at, I read that she was no slouch when it came to brains and talent: a degree (with honors) from Stanford, study abroad at Oxford, a violin prodigy as a child in her native Minnesota, and, in fact, the first classical violinist to compete – and win – the Miss America title. And then a career in television, first at stations in Texas, Ohio and Virginia, then in New York with CBS and finally Fox, where she co-hosted the morning program “Fox & Friends with Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmead.
In one of the first articles about the lawsuit, The New York Times related how she was moved after 11 years to an afternoon time slot and subsequently let go because of poor ratings among the critical 18-35 age group (you know, all those people at home watching TV during those hours). Coincidentally (or not) the meeting at which she was told her contract would not be renewed took place two days after she announced on the air that it was her 50th birthday. The paper quoted her: “I know, normally folks on TV wouldn’t readily admit their age, but since there’s nothing you can do about it, you might as well own it and be happy.”
Carlson’s lawsuit prompted an internal investigation that has encouraged revelations by many women employees, past and present, of harassment at the channel that ran the gamut from denigrating comments to outright propositions. One former employee said Ailes told her, “If you want to play with the boys you have to lay with the boys.” And Carlson said that Ailes told her they both might have benefitted if she had gone to bed with him.
An atmosphere that mandated that women anchors always wear skirts on air so their legs show under the desk extended to an overall diminishing of women in general and employees in particular. Carlson claims that her co-host Doocy had an ongoing habit of treating her disrespectfully and when she complained to Ailes he brushed it off.
And now Aisles has to leave the network he created. Couldn’t happen to a better guy.
Photos: cbn.com, nbcnews.com