Will the Fox News Culture of Misconduct and Abuse Shift as Murdorch Steps Down?


Rupert Murdoch has stepped down as the chairman of Fox Corp and News Corp, ending a more than seven-decade career during which he created a media empire spanning from Australia to the United States. His son, Lachlan Murdoch, will become the sole chairman of News Corp and continue as the chair and CEO of Fox, the companies said on Thursday. The transition solidifies Lachlan’s role as the leader of the media empire, putting to rest questions of succession within the Murdoch family.

Under Murdoch’s reign, Fox Corp and News Corp has seen a deluge of allegations filed against them, ranging from sexual abuse and misconduct to defamation lawsuits, including several high-profile men ousted after sexual misconduct allegations. Those men include Roger Ailes, and hosts Bill O’Reilly and Eric Bolling

Murdoch has called the series of sexual harassment allegations at Fox News in recent years “largely political” and “nonsense.”

Ten women staffers at Fox News responded to Murdoch’s dismissal of the claims to Huffington Post, all of whom are or were on-air talent and say they have faced harassment or assault by current and former Fox News executives and on-air talent. They said the comment by Murdoch, who controls the Fox News Channel along with his two sons Lachlan and James through 21st Century Fox, not only diminished the scandal that has plagued the network for over 17 months, it also virtually erased a flood of allegations, terminations, forced resignations and settlements.

Fox News producer Shelley Ross  wrote an essay for the Daily Beast about her own experiences with Roger Ailes under the reign of Rupert Murdoch, and with workplace sexism in the media in general.

Ross said that Ailes, who was a producer at NBC at the time, offered her a job in 1981 as a segment producer at NBC’s Tomorrow show. But after offering her the job, Ross, said, Ailes met with her and proposed a “sexual alliance,” which he said would be to their mutual benefit.

Ross said she told Ailes that she was embarrassed, but he persisted. Then, feeling “truly vulnerable” and trapped, Ross told the entertainment lawyer negotiating her employment not to bother having any further conversations about this job.

But that lawyer told her boss — who turned out to be Johnny Carson’s lawyer, Henry Bushkin, who had a lot of influence at NBC. Ross said that after he and other attorneys held a conference call with Ailes, he apologized to her profusely and never made advances again.

Ross said she figured that was the end of it, and that she was the first and last to be harassed by Ailes. But she still witnessed countless incidents of sexual harassment in the media world, and called it out in her essay.

“You can’t just have one villain, not even Roger Ailes,” Ross wrote. “For 30 years I have witnessed a pervasive culture populated by more than a few morally repugnant executives and those who kept their jobs by not making waves around them.”

Current employment, fear of retaliation, and nondisclosure agreements prevented the women from coming forward with their identities, but did not stop them from providing statements anonymously to HuffPo.

“I have had to put up with a hostile work environment for years, and now I’m told that it doesn’t exist by a man who doesn’t have to walk these halls every day? I’m hungry for justice,” said one woman who is part of the network’s on-air talent.

“Hey Rupert – stop with the lies or we’ll go public with the truth. All of it. Including about the talent and executives you still employ who have harassed us and don’t give a damn about workplace respect – only money,” said a woman who was previously a member of Fox News’ on-air talent. “How much will it take before you actually start caring about your female employees? Is your 52 billion enough? Are we really going to clean house now?”

Fox News commentator, Tamara Holder settled a sexual assault claim and said, “The culture at Fox News won’t change until you publicly accept that it has been a breeding ground for sexual misconduct over the past two decades.”

Gretchen Carlson, whose lawsuit against Ailes brought about his eventual downfall, challenged Murdoch to release women from the arbitration clauses they signed upon joining the network. “Mr. Murdoch: sexual harassment isn’t ‘flirting,’ ‘nonsense,’ ‘largely political’ or simply ‘isolated incidents’ . . . Let the public decide if the behavior to which women were subjected was ‘flirting.’”

Now that Murdoch has announced he’s passing the torch onto his son, the question remains what, if any, improvements to gender-based safety and sexual misconduct and abuse will be made or continue to occur?


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