One would seek in vain on Fox News for a mention of what is, elsewhere, one of the affairs of the day: the condemnation of the American television channel to a fine of 1 million dollars (844,100 euros) for a series of complaints for sexual assault and harassment. Yet it is the largest fine ever imposed on a company by the New York City Commission on Human Rights, the municipal agency responsible for enforcing laws against discrimination on the workplace or utilities.
The conservative channel and Donald Trump’s favorite organ had been shaken by a scandal which had resulted in the departure of Roger Ailes, the all-powerful co-founder of Fox, with Rupert Murdoch, in 1996. After years of omerta, one of the victims, star host Gretchen Carlson, ended up filing a complaint in 2016, opening the door to dozens of other testimonies. Roger Ailes had been confronted with his practice of a quasi-droit de cuissage for those who wanted to be hired by the chain. Fallen out of favor, he had to leave his own company in early 2017, ousted by his friend Rupert Murdoch. He was to die a few weeks later, in May 2017, at the age of 77.
Such acts “cannot be tolerated”
The scandal had also led to the fall of Bill O’Reilly, another apparently unconquerable signing, in 2017, an incident of the worst effect for a chain consistently extolling family values. The case was brought to the screen under the title Bombshell (Scandal, released in 2019) by filmmaker Jay Roach, with Nicole Kidman and Charlize Theron, who play Gretchen Carlson and Megyn Kelly, another star in the conservative media landscape, vilified by Donald Trump, after also leaving Fox News.
The settlement, revealed on June 29, was negotiated with the New York Human Rights Commission. The spokesperson for the institution, Carmelyn Malalis, clarified that it had wanted to convey the message that such acts of harassment or reprisals “ cannot be tolerated ”. The agreement prevents Fox News from including a clause in new hiring contracts binding employees who wish to file a complaint for violation of their rights to confidential arbitration. It also forces the channel to organize awareness sessions on sexual harassment.