Longtime Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson’s sexual harassment lawsuit against Fox News CEO Roger Ailes makes some shocking allegations. Carlson says Ailes routinely objectified her in public and in private, and that because she refused his sexual advances, Ailes systematically sabotaged her career before finally firing her.
Ailes wasn’t the only one Carlson named in her lawsuit, though. She also alleged that her former Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy “engaged in a pattern of severe and pervasive sexual harassment” against her, and that Ailes retaliated against her when she complained about it.
Ailes denies all of this, and says Carlson is just trying to get back at him for firing her due to poor ratings.
But whether or not Carlson’s allegations can be substantiated, this supercut from Bloomberg Politics shows that even on the air, Carlson put up with a lot of sexualized and sexist banter on Fox & Friends.
The video is painful to watch. Over and over again, Carlson’s colleagues or guests remark on how “beautiful” she is. Carlson offers half-smiles or breezy replies like, “Well, you look fabulous too!” in response, but she often looks tense or irritated while doing so.
And it gets worse than “compliments” on her looks. There’s a suggestive joke about whether viewers are really “concerned” that Carlson will wear a skirt while riding a mechanical bull, or if it’s something else.
“Bra stories, defer to the babe,” says co-host Brian Kilmeade at one point.
Kilmeade comes out looking the worst in this particular video, and Carlson occasionally calls him out — usually with a smile or a joke, but it’s hard to tell just how much she’s really joking.
“HR is on the phone because you called me a skirt,” she tells Kilmeade in one segment, who responds with a laugh, “I’ve gotta read that manual again.”
“Now you know what I go through!” Carlson tells guest Laura Ingraham, who had just been asked by Kilmeade whether she prefers a male or female masseuse.
When Kilmeade makes a crack about how one guest was “the only sexist person who came on here who made you laugh,” Carlson shoots back, "Other than sitting next to you every day.”
Some might see Carlson’s lighthearted responses as evidence that her treatment wasn’t a big deal, or that she was in on the joke. But women often feel that they have no choice but to respond politely in the face of sexual harassment, for fear of making it worse.
If Carlson had responded to all of this on-air sexism with full-throated outrage, she would probably have been dismissed as oversensitive at best, and faced professional repercussions at worst. And if the allegations in Carlson’s lawsuit are true, the worst is exactly what happened when she did speak out.