The U.S. Senate has just passed legislation forbidding companies from silencing employees about sexual harassment or sexual assault on the job. This has been former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson’s great cause since leaving the network and filing her bombshell lawsuit against Roger Ailes. Oh, and she revealed that she had been thinking of suing Fox before she left.
Carlson’s earthquaking lawsuit arguably set the stage for the rise of the #MeToo movement. But since getting her eye-popping $20 million settlement, Carlson has advocated for abolishing non-disclosure agreements, like the one that snared her. Carlson explained her journey during a PBS NewsHour interview with Lisa Desjardins yesterday:
CARLSON: I had a forced arbitration clause in my last contract at FOX. And, even as an educated woman, thinking about bringing a lawsuit even at that time, I did not understand the ramifications of what that meant. And it was a dark day for me when my lawyers told me, you have no case because you're going to go to the secret chamber of arbitration. You cannot go to a jury trial.
And that's why we sued Roger Ailes personally. That was the strategy, to try and make my case public, or we arguably would not be in this movement right now, because my story would have never, ever been told.
And what ended up happening, Lisa, was, I started hearing from thousands of other women across the country after my case became public, and they said, the same thing happened to me. And I have never, ever been able to tell my story.
And I realized then that it was an epidemic, and I needed to do something about it.
Carlson doesn’t say so but I think we can presume her conservative cred from Fox News helped push the legislation through Congress (the White House has already indicated President Biden will sign the bill).
CARLSON: But the way that I sum this up is that I saw a tonal shift happening on Capitol Hill over the last five years since I started advocating for this bill, and specifically with Republicans. And so I decided strategically to make most of my outreach to Republicans. Democrats tend to vote for this, and Republicans tended not to.
And I was able to get a lot of Republicans who voted no the first time this was introduced back in 2017 to switch their votes to yes this time. I think that that was significant because of the efforts made, but also because people realize that this movement's not going away now, and the same thing with companies.
As much as they thought this might be a passing fad, they're now thinking to themselves, wow, five years into this, we're still talking about this, and so we might have to be introspective and make some changes, and maybe we can't silence our women anymore when bad things happen to them.
But she also credited the media, saying that one key to the bill's passage was the media coverage that got people angry when they heard about the present situation.
Carlson’s work is not done, though. Although The New York Times reported that the bill “was hailed by employment lawyers as one of the most significant changes to labor law in decades,” the legislation is very narrow. Axios says it “only scratches surface of secretive courts” because it only covers sexual harassment and sexual assault cases. Axios also reports that advocates hope to pass further measures barring forced arbitration in other areas of civil rights, including race discrimination, as well as in consumer contracts.”
Carlson told PBS yesterday, “I plan to start meeting with members of Congress immediately to start tackling some more of those issues.”
Carlson was very much part of Fox's propaganda machine during her time there. While she may still be prevented from talking about it, I’d love to know how she accounts for her work there now, when she seems – well, different.
She could have used her settlement cash to buy a new yacht or a private island and washed her hands of the whole business. So for working at and accomplishing something that will help generations of women to come, I say, “good for her” - whatever her past, present or future political beliefs.
You can watch Carlson discuss the new legislation below, from the February 10, 2022 PBS NewsHour.
(Carlson image via screen grab)
Also, Brian Stelter’s book “Hoax” is a very interesting read about Fox. He has a lot of sources and behind-the scenes info.
That said, the one person I would most love to talk to from Fox is Gretchen Carlson. My guess is that she was/is a believer in the original Fox mission. I’m sure she’s a genuine conservative or was.
What I’m dying to know is how her feelings about Fox have evolved and what made the evolution happen. Clearly, she was disenchanted before she left. She even said in this interview that she was planning on suing them when she negotiated her last contract.
Sadly, Carlson is still bound by her NDA and may never be able to speak about her time there. But she fascinates me and I’m always eager to see any of her interviews to get little glimpses of her thinking.
It would be very interesting to learn how much notice they take of their press. Certainly some of them must keep track of what the likes of Media Matters and NewsHounds have to say about their performances.