Fox News needs to do some ‘splaining about its own enabling of sexual harassment, as well as the harassers’ ties to top Republicans, before it goes pointing fingers about Harvey Weinstein and Democrats.
Fox seems almost giddy over the Weinstein scandal. Not because they show much concern about the victims but because it’s good for new rounds of ammunition in its perpetual war against Democrats.
Yesterday, NewsHounds’ Priscilla took this screen grab from the FoxNews.com homepage. Notice the big concern is not about how such a thing happen for so long or even how women actresses may have been traumatized. No, the big message for Fox is Clinton and Obama ties to “rapist” Weinstein.
I previously noted Sean Hannity’s phony-baloney sanctimony over Weinstein that quacked a lot more like politicizing tragedy than concern for victims. But Hannity was far from alone in that effort, there were many others piling on.
This morning, Fox Business Network host Stuart Varney actually admitted he’s enjoying the scandal because of how he can politicize it. He said, “This is a bombshell right in the middle of the liberal media and, of course, liberal Hollywood and I am loving every second of it.” He later clarified, “I want to make something very clear. In every segment since this disgusting story broke I have been crystal clear that I am appalled and outraged by what Harvey Weinstein allegedly did. My comment there was strictly about the liberal hypocrisy in the media and in Hollywood, and no one should construe it in any other way.”
In other words, yeah, he hates what Weinstein has done but he loves more “every second” of how it makes liberals look bad. Imagine if a CNN anchor said he loved “every second” of any of Trumps many sexual scandals.
And speaking of many sexual scandals, you might call Fox News Sexual Harassment Headquarters. In little more than a year, CEO Roger Ailes, top host Bill O’Reilly and host Eric Bolling have all been ousted after many reports of sexual abuse on their part. A lawsuit filed by former host Andrea Tantaros in 2016 described Fox as operating "like a sex-fueled, Playboy Mansion-like cult,steeped in intimidation, indecency, and misogyny."
Ailes’ abuse of women has been well documented. But he not only palled around with powerful Republicans, he was embedded with their operations. Consider this paragraph from a 2016 Politico article about Ailes, in his pre-Fox days:
After the election, Ailes remained an important adviser to [George H.W.] Bush. Crucially, in the weeks before the first Gulf War, Ailes convened focus groups to test which messages would most effectively make the case for using military force to drive Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait. A memo from Ailes to the president delineated those arguments that worked and those that didn’t, allowing Bush to refine his argument for his televised Oval Office address. In 1992, while assuming no formal position in the reelection campaign, Ailes persuaded Bush to deride Bill Clinton’s patriotism, which the president did by making baseless insinuations about a trip Clinton had taken as a young man to Russia.
For more on Fox News’ closeness to the GOP, check out the documentary Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism (for which I served as a researcher). It was produced in 2004 but it’s still relevant today.
In April, The Washington Post reported that Trump and Ailes are “still in touch.”
Trump’s milkshake BFF, Bill O’Reilly, got the heave-ho from Fox News only after a bombshell New York Times article made public multiple accusations against him that Fox had kept quiet. That started a cascade of attention and outside pressure.
In fact, Trump praised O’Reilly shortly before his departure in a New York Times interview: “I think he’s a person I know well — he is a good person,” said Mr. Trump. … “I don’t think Bill did anything wrong.”
But don’t expect any pictures of Trump or any other Republican official with Ailes or O’Reilly or Bolling to show up any time soon o Fox. You can, however, see videos of Hannity and O’Reilly together. On September 26, just weeks before the Weinstein poutrage, O’Reilly paid a very friendly, "Never Mind The Sexual Harassment" visit to the Hannity show. This was after Hannity had urged O'Reilly to return to Fox. There were lots of complaints about the NFL players protesting the national anthem during their chat. The phrase “sexual harassment” never came up.
Weinstein is and was a pig. He was always known for overbearing egomaniacal behavior, and the latest revelations just push that to another level. Most people simply knew him as being piggish on the outside and didn’t have to deal with him on a personal level or evade his harassment. Those that did know about it clearly felt intimidated about coming forward about it. Weinstein’s behavior was a dirty secret for those that knew and tried to cover it up.
Roger Ailes’ piggish behavior was actually far more open at Fox News, and known about throughout the Right Wing, if not celebrated. This wasn’t a behind-closed-doors thing like what Weinstein was doing. Ailes was out in the open about his proclivities, as we’ve found in the suits from Gretchen Carlson and Andrea Tantaros, not to mention the other situations that came out – for example the assault on Tamara Holder that led to yet ANOTHER multi-million dollar settlement from Fox News. As Tantaros pointed out, the atmosphere at Fox News has always been that of a kind of Playboy Mansion party. The women there are regularly treated as objects, both on and off the air – as Ellen has repeatedly shown in little areas like taking the front off the anchor desk when women are hosting.
When we tried to discuss this matter, the Right Wing would repeatedly deny that anything was happening, and powerful voices at Fox News like O’Reilly would try to shout down the conversation. (While at the same time O’Reilly was harassing it up whenever he could, apparently, and while acolytes of his like Bolling were figuring they could get away with the same behavior because, hey, the boss gets away with it all the time…) Gretchen Carlson’s massive lawsuit was derided by Right Wingers in my presence as just a case of an older woman trying to get a big payout from Fox News since she had aged out of their use for her.
When Donald Trump was caught on tape with that infamous exchange for Access Hollywood, the Right Wing laughed off most of it as “locker room talk”. And Trump has been fairly open throughout his life about his piggishness – part of his smugness is about how he’s always gotten away with it and never apologizes. Just like a typical schoolyard bully. His basic attitude is “You want me to apologize? MAKE ME.”
Much of the media will focus on the Weinstein story because it’s a cautionary tale about “how the mighty have fallen” and it’s got a salacious ring to it. For Fox News and the Right Wing, this is about having a counter-story to embarrass liberals. It’s a counter-narrative. It’s the same approach they took when discussing the Clinton and Obama presidencies, where they constantly hunted for anything they could blow up into a scandal, and if they couldn’t find anything, they’d invent something. Because they needed a counter-narrative to all the very real criminal scandals that happened in the Reagan presidencies and the White Houses of both of the Bushes. So they repeatedly attacked Eric Holder without basis and repeatedly tried to smear President Obama over the past decade. They repeatedly attacked and smeared Hillary Clinton and anyone else they could who was a Democrat.
This discussion about how Dems must immediately find any campaign donations from the Weinsteins and publicly burn them is frankly hysterical. If we’re going to have that discussion, I’d like to hear about how many Republicans are turning in their campaign donations and how many of them are willing to acknowledge that they were given millions of dollars of airtime on Fox News by Roger Ailes. Will every GOP candidate for President from just the last campaign cycle agree to donate 10 million dollars to charity, so they can wash out the stain of having benefited from Ailes’ largesse? I didn’t think so. Fox News and the Right Wing should be ashamed of themselves for their behavior here – but it would appear that they really do not have any shame at long last. Not during the Year of the Bully, anyway.
Mr. Weinstein was clearly leading a double life and he was powerful enough for the victims to think several times before speaking up. The young lady who did so in New York was shamed by a prosecutor who seems to have decided to kowtow to power and money. I do sincerely hope that times have changed.
On the hypocrisy issue, a lot is being made of the fact that Democrats are reluctant to denounce Weinstein because he donated a lot of money to them. Sheesh, haven’t they gotten all righteous alluvasudden? Please, somebody please remind me who it was who was caught joking and bragging about grabbing women by their nether parts? And didn’t that same person continue to keep company with a big-time media mogul who’d been fired for sexual harrassment? As usual, the Republicans are totally without shame in applying a double standard. IOKIYAR, forever!
Personally, were I to hear that someone I respected had been accused of something truly awful, I’d want to get more information before passing judgement. The difference between (D) and® is that the latter don’t ever seem to get to the stage to condemning the unacceptable behaviour by one of their own. It took the (D) a couple of weeks but their condemnation is total, they are divulging the amounts and they are either sending the money back or (far better, IMO) devolving it to charity.