‘Severe and pervasive’: Fox News CEO accused of sexual harassment by ex-host

Fox News CEO Roger Ailes (right) is being sued by Gretchen Carlson (left) © Fred Prouser, Noam Galai (AFP)
Former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson has accused the company’s chief executive Roger Ailes of sexual harassment and retaliation, saying she was penalized after refusing to sleep with Ailes and reporting “disparaging treatment in the newsroom.”

The complaint was filed at the Superior Court of New Jersey in Bergen County on Wednesday, USA Today confirmed. Neither Fox News nor Carlson have made any further comments about it, however.

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“Ailes has unlawfully retaliated against Carlson and sabotaged her career because she refused his sexual advances and complained about severe and pervasive sexual harassment,” the complaint says. “When Carlson met with Ailes to discuss the discriminatory treatment to which she was being subjected, Ailes stated: ‘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,’ adding that ‘sometimes problems are easier to solve’ that way.”

Before becoming CEO of Fox News in 1996, Ailes worked as media consultant to three Republican presidents: Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

The Minnesota-born Carlson graduated from Stanford University and was crowned Miss America in 1989. She worked for CBS News before becoming a co-host of Fox & Friends in 2005. Her own current-affairs show, The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson premiered in September 2013. Carlson’s contract with Fox News expired on June 23, and the show’s page has already been scrubbed from the network’s website.

Search for Carlson's show on Fox News' website turns up an error page © foxnews.com

When Carlson accused her Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy of treating her in a “sexist and condescending way” in 2009, Ailes retaliated by calling her a “man-hater,” giving her fewer interviews and coveted assignments, and ending her once-a-week appearance on the O’Reilly Factor, the complaint claims. Carlson also claims that her removal from Fox & Friends in 2013 was a punishment.

Carlson had previously published a blog on Huffington Post, in August 2015, in which she detailed several prior incidents of sexual harassment over the course of her career, but made no mention of any problems with her employer at the time.

“Even when I was harassed, I always knew that my brains and talent were responsible for my success, not my looks. Unfortunately, I still have to put up with the constant drumbeat of ‘lookism.’ People think it’s okay to refer to a professional woman as a ‘blonde bimbo.’ We should refuse to tolerate this attitude when it occurs,” she wrote.

Accusing Ailes of hurting her career, Carlson is now seeking compensatory and punitive damages, damages for mental anguish, attorneys’ fees and “reimbursement for negative tax consequences resulting from a jury verdict” in the matter.

Carlson was criticized by the liberal-leaning media in 2014, after she described Satanists in Oklahoma as “atheists” in a Tweet, and in 2007 when she insinuated that Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) was a “hostile enemy on the home front” for opposing the Iraq troop surge.