NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson said sexual harassment victims shouldn’t be forced into secret arbitration proceedings.
Carlson has filed a lawsuit against Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes, claiming he forced her out following a meeting where he told her that “you and I should have had a sexual relationship a long time ago.” The contract of Carlson, who said there was an atmosphere of harassment at Fox, was not renewed when it ended last month.
Ailes is seeking to move former anchor Gretchen Carlson’s harassment case against him from a New Jersey court to a closed arbitration panel in New York.
“Forcing victims of sexual harassment into secret arbitration proceedings is wrong because it means that nobody ever finds out what really happened. We need to stand together with all of the victims and make sure that they are not silenced,” Carlson said in a video posted on Twitter Wednesday afternoon.
Ailes, in court papers filed last Friday, said Carlson’s contract compelled her to submit to arbitration for employment disputes. His lawyer, Susan Estrich, said Carlson’s lawyers have led a “concerted smear campaign” against Ailes and, in court papers, said the motive is to convince Ailes to pay a large settlement to make the case go away.
“Her attempt to game the system so as to avoid the arbitration clause for her client’s baseless allegations is contrary to law and unsupported by the facts,” Estrich said.
Ailes said it made no sense for a New Jersey court to hear the case since his primary residence and Fox’s offices are in New York, and Carlson lives in Connecticut. Ailes also owns a home in New Jersey.
Reports swirled Tuesday that Ailes was being ousted from the network following a New York Magazine report that Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly told had told investigators working for Fox News Channel parent 21st Century Fox that Ailes had sexually harassed her when she was a reporter at Fox 10 years ago.
“Roger Ailes has never sexually harassed Megyn Kelly,” Estrich said. “In fact, he has spent much of the last decade promoting and helping her achieve the stardom she earned, for which she has repeatedly and publicly thanked him.”
A handful of other women have come forward alleging that Ailes had pressured them for sex, their stories all predating the start of Fox News Channel in 1996. 21st Century Fox hired an outside law firm to look into allegations against Ailes and New York magazine reported on Monday that company chiefs Rupert Murdoch and his sons, James and Lachlan, had concluded that the media executive had to go.
21st Century Fox said that “Roger is at work. The review is ongoing. And the only agreement that is in place is his existing employment agreement.”
At stake is an extraordinary career in media and politics. At Rupert Murdoch’s behest, Ailes started a news network that catered to conservatives who felt ignored by the mainstream media. By 2002, it had eclipsed the original cable news network, CNN, in ratings and has never looked back. Fox is now dominating all of the other networks in this week’s coverage of the Republican National Convention.
Fox News is a huge success financially, by some measures providing a quarter of its parent company’s revenues. That had given Ailes power in some corporate scrapes he had with Rupert Murdoch’s sons.
There was some evidence this campaign that Fox’s influence with Republicans had been waning, since the network had gotten into battles with Donald Trump. But in recent weeks Trump has more frequently turned to Fox as a way to reach the Republican audience he needs for election.
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