Former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson, whose bombshell lawsuit for sexual harassment led to the downfall of CEO Roger Ailes, visited ABC’s 20/20 to discuss the subject in general. She was prohibited from the terms of her settlement from saying much about what happened at Fox. But after her multi-part interview ended, former Fox News booker Laurie Luhn provided chilling details of her life as, essentially, Ailes’ sex slave.
Luhn’s allegations were reported on by New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman in July. But even if you know about her claims of being told to dance for Ailes in a black garter and stockings while he filmed her, for example, hearing her story in her own voice and on camera is a whole new level of disturbing.
But as I wrote in July, the real significance of Luhn’s revelations were in the less prurient details: that a number of top-level Fox executives were implicated in aiding and abetting not only her harassment but in the cover up and the hush money. One of those executives, Bill Shine, has since been promoted to co-president.
Yet, despite the fact that Carlson talks about the importance of being able to speak up about harassment, the show didn’t report on any of the harassment enablers who are still in positions of power.
Another big omission is how Carlson dumbed herself down on Fox News. 20/20 paints a flattering portrait of her resumé and, given her many accomplishments, there is much to admire. I also admire her courage in taking a stand against the most powerful man in television (and winning) and her current outspokenness on harassment. But while Carlson explains very persuasively why she was afraid to speak up about the sexual harassment she repeatedly endured in her career, and not just at Fox, aren’t we due an explanation as to why she willingly played the dumb blonde for all the years she was at Fox? That may not be sexual harassment but it certainly helped to perpetuate an atmosphere of sexism. And it was certainly not who she really was and is.
That’s not counting Carlson’s willingness to serve as a helpmate in Fox’s political propaganda machine. I recommend this 2010 article about her in Connecticut Magazine for a glimpse at a less pleasant side of her when she was confronted with Fox News bias.
Still, all the clips are worth watching, both to get a look at Carlson’s steeliness and for the smart things she has to say about sexual harassment in general. It’s quite possible Carlson has evolved from the go-along-to-get-along cohost she once was. However, I think we deserve to know about it.
But you don’t need to dive into any of those weeds to get a good feel for the kind of predator Ailes was at Fox. If you believe Luhn's story and I do, watching her tell it is pretty much all you need to know. There are reasons you should believe her, too. New York Magazine reported in July that it was “able to independently corroborate key details in her account, including that she was sexually involved with Ailes for many years, from sources who worked at Fox at the same time she did.”
Watch this extraordinary report below, from ABC News' 20/20, on November 18, 2016.
Sorry Gretchen. Enjoy your money. But it’ll never buy you respect or a soul …