CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota opened up on Reliable Sources yesterday about how the sexual harassment and bullying by Roger Ailes drove her out of her Fox News anchor job. Her comments also destroy any notion that Fox even tried to be “fair and balanced.”
Camerota left Fox about three years ago, she said, and has hesitated to criticize her former employer. “But something feels different this week. It felt like there was a tipping point,” she said. She meant that she thinks the Murdoch family (who control Fox) really want to know about what was wrong with the toxic culture under Ailes. That's why, she said, she felt ready “to let some daylight in” about her experiences.
Transcript excerpts via Media Matters, with my emphases added and some light copy edits:
CAMEROTA: Roger Ailes did sexually harass me. Let me be clear. Roger Ailes was—could be charming, he could be quite charismatic. He could be uproariously funny. He could also be a bit of a bully and mean. And he also was often kind of grossly inappropriate with things that he would say. And I think that many of us experienced that. He would talk about body parts. He would say, “Give me a spin.” He would want to be greeted with a hug.
But the time that I remember most was when I was first starting out at Fox and I was single. And I remember being in Roger’s office and I was saying that I wanted more opportunity. And he said, “Well, I would have to work with you. […] I would have to work with you really closely. And it may require us getting to know each other better. And that might have to happen away from here. And it might have to happen at a hotel. Do you know what I’m saying?”
And I said, “Yeah, I think I do know what you’re saying.” And I just want to say that I knew in my head at that moment I’m never going to that hotel under any circumstances. But I didn’t know what that meant for me and for my career. And I remember vividly that I had sort of an out of body experience hovering over us in the office and thinking, “Is this it? Is this the end of my time here? Will I be fired if I don’t do this?” And I just want everybody to understand that when it happens, there is a visceral reaction that you have where you recognize my career and everything I’ve worked for is under threat, and I don’t know what’s going to happen next.
Camerota said she never told anybody at the time because she felt embarrassed and humiliated.
CAMEROTA: It’s embarrassing. When this man that you’ve gone to tell about your strengths and to sort of see if he thinks that you’re doing a good job at work, you know, makes that sort of proposition, it is demeaning and it is humiliating. And so I was sort of embarrassed to tell people. And I decided, personally, and everybody deals with it differently. “I’m going to ignore that. I’m going to pretend that never happened.” He then changed his M.O. and when I say that I experienced harassment there, it was different. For me it was no longer sexual harassment it was harassment of a different variety.
The harassment Camerota subsequently experienced was emotional harassment. And her experiences reveal just how cynically disingenuous Fox is about its claim to be “fair and balanced.”
CAMEROTA: Roger Ailes ruled with an iron fist. And he wanted us all to fall in line and have his world view and say the things that he wanted us to say on Fox News. And he targeted me because he sort of figured out early on that I didn’t share his world view. And he said, “You’re not saying the conservative things that I want you to say and you could be a real role model and you could be a real star if only you could sound conservative sometimes.”
And I said “Well, Roger, that’s not my job. I’m not supposed to sound conservative or liberal. I’m supposed to be a fair and balanced, in your terms, journalist. And I’m supposed to be open and I’m not supposed to take a side.” And that, he didn’t appreciate or particularly like. I was often you know, sort of called on the carpet for things because he thought that I wasn’t reflecting the conservative agenda. So he and I had a lot of interaction and sometimes arguments. Sometimes he would lecture me, sometimes he would insult me.
As Camerota went on, she hinted that people at Fox have frequently just gone along with Ailes’ agenda to “make it easy.” And although she didn’t say it, enhance their careers.
CAMEROTA: You have to make a choice at that point. Of whether or not you’re just going to make it easy, your life easy and go along with what he wants you to say, or if you’re going to try to fight it and try to stand up for sort of finding the truth or try to stand up for representing both sides. And I would, you know, say to him when he would identify something that he thought that I hadn’t been conservative enough sounding, and I would say, “You know, Roger, first of all, isn’t it supposed to be fair and balanced? Aren’t I supposed to be playing devil’s advocate? […] Isn’t that my job? Aren’t I supposed to be representing the other side?”
And he said, “There is no other side.”
Roger’s world view—there was no other side. Liberals were always wrong. Conservatives were generally right. And that’s what he felt that we should be reflecting on the air. And so when I say that there was bullying, it was very unpleasant at times to be alone in Roger’s office when he would, you know, boom and bellow at me about how I was getting it wrong.
When asked, Camerota confirmed that Ailes’ harassment drove her out of Fox.
STELTER: Is Ailes’ behavior part of the reason you left Fox a few years ago?
CAMEROTA: Yes. It is. I realized that, you know, Roger was quite clear about how “If only you could say these things I could make you a big star and I could give you great time slots.”
STELTER: You’re saying it was first, “Come to my hotel room.” When you rejected him, then it became, “Say the things I want you to say on air.”
CAMEROTA: Yes, but I don’t believe those two are mutually exclusive. He liked—both of those things were things that he was obviously interested in. But I didn’t—I don’t believe that’s journalism. And I really wrestled with that. I didn’t want to only have to talk about Roger’s agenda and the things that Roger thought were best for this country. I thought that there was room for debate, and that there was certainly room to hear the other side. And so it became clear to me fairly early that I was in a dead-end job and that Roger was never going to convert me, and that I was never going to be the person, the mouthpiece that he wanted me to be, and that I needed to go. And I don’t like the idea of being summoned to the boss’ office and being called on the carpet and being either yelled at or criticized or insulted. And it got really tiresome, so much so that towards the end, I started refusing to go to Roger’s office.
I applaud Camerota for this interview which was probably not easy for her to do. But as Frances Langum noted at Crooks and Liars, there were some things glaringly absent.
I’ll believe cable news culture has changed when women journalists and analysts are not given wardrobes that feature their bare thighs under a glass desk.
Don’t anybody tell me Camerota wasn’t completely aware of the optics of what she was doing. Camerota is shapely enough to display the bare thighs (eat your heart out, Fox News crotch couch) but hey, don’t tell your serious news people they are required as part of their job to spout conservatism. That’s a bridge too far.
As we’ve repeatedly demonstrated, the Fox News sexism goes way beyond anything that happened off the air. We should not be satisfied with just the removal of sexual predators at the top of the food chain and forget about what happens on the air.
Meanwhile, give Camerota her due as you watch her below, from CNN’s April 23, 2017 Reliable Sources, via Crooks and Liars.
Sorry. You made a handsome living being a right wing shill. No sympathy now that the gravy has run dry…