Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes has fired back at former host Gretchen Carlson’s sexual harassment lawsuit, calling her claims “false” and “offensive,” and promised a vigorous defense.
“Gretchen Carlson’s allegations are false,” Ailes wrote in a statement Wednesday. “This is a retaliatory suit for the network’s decision not to renew her contract, which was due to the fact that her disappointingly low ratings were dragging down the afternoon lineup. When Fox News did not commence any negotiations to renew her contract, Ms. Carlson became aware that her career with the network was likely over and conveniently began to pursue a lawsuit. Ironically, FOX News provided her with more on-air opportunities over her 11 year tenure than any other employer in the industry, for which she thanked me in her recent book. This defamatory lawsuit is not only offensive, it is wholly without merit and will be defended vigorously.”
The suit, filed in Wednesday in Bergen County, New Jersey, claims the “Real Story” host refused Ailes’ sexual advances and “as a direct and proximate result” her relationship with Fox News was severed nine months later.
21st Century Fox, the parent company of Fox News, has launched an internal investigation into the situation.
The court filing alleges Ailes once said to Carlson: “I think you and I should have had a sexual relationship a long time ago and then you’d be good and better and I’d be good and better.”
Carlson seeks a “trial by jury with respect to all issues that are so triable [sic],” according to the suit, adding that the loss of employment has caused “significant economic, emotional and professional harm.”
She further claims Ailes denied her “fair compensation, desirable assignments and other career-enhancing opportunities in retaliation for her complaints of harassment and discrimination.”
The suit also alleges that Carlson complained in 2009 that “Fox & Friends” co-host Steve Doocy created a hostile work environment by treating her in a sexist and condescending way. According to the court documents, Ailes’ response to the complaint was that Carlson needed to learn to “get along with the boys.”
Doocy is mentioned in the legal papers but is not named as a defendant in the suit. However, Fox’s internal investigation includes Doocy, who is still a co-host on the morning show.
During the second quarter of 2016, “Real Story with Gretchen Carlson” was the No. 24 show in all of cable news in the key 25-54 demographic. The show was more successful in total viewers, finishing No. 14 overall, ahead of any program on rival network CNN, averaging 1.15 million viewers.