Fox is said to have agreed to pay former Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson $20 million to settle her sexual harassment lawsuit against former Fox News chief Roger Ailes — and apologized for the discriminatory treatment she said she experienced from him and others.
Carlson “exhibited the highest standards of journalism and professionalism” during her tenure, Fox says. “We are proud that she was part of the Fox News team. We sincerely regret and apologize for the fact that Gretchen was not treated with the respect and dignity that she and all of our colleagues deserve.”
Carlson says that she’s “gratified” by Fox’s “decisive action” adding that she’s “ready to move on to the next chapter of my life in which I will redouble my efforts to empower women in the workplace…. All women deserve a dignified and respectful workplace in which talent, hard work and loyalty are recognized, revered and rewarded.”
A filing that her lawyer, Nancy Erika Smith, made at New Jersey Superior Court today — although it’s dated August 30 — says that Carlson is voluntarily dismissing her action “in its entirety with prejudice.”
Vanity Fair was first to report the $20 million settlement figure. It also says that Fox is preparing to settle two additional sexual harassment cases against Ailes.
The settlement follows a devastating report Friday from New York Magazine‘s Gabriel Sherman that said Carlson had secretly recorded conversations where she alleged that Ailes had harassed her. The story charged that Ailes had created a “culture of fear at Fox” and “was known for monitoring employee emails and phone conversations and hiring private investigators.” But with FNC’s financial success “Ailes became untouchable.” Rupert Murdoch, who controls 21st Century Fox, “tolerated Ailes’s abusiveness because he was pleased with the results.”
Ailes seemed ready to counterattack: He hired Charles Harder, the lawyer Hulk Hogan used in a successful suit that charged Gawker Media with violating his privacy. Harder told New York to hold on to documents used in Sherman’s story for a possible suit charging the magazine with defamation.
Rupert Murdoch, now Fox’s co-executive chairman, took charge of Fox News on July 21 when he and his sons — co-executive chairman Lachlan Murdoch and CEO James Murdoch — cut Ailes loose. An internal investigation found that Ailes had also come on to FNC superstar Megyn Kelly and others.
Since then, former The Five co-host Andrea Tantaros filed a nearly $50 million sexual harassment lawsuit.
“Fox News masquerades as defender of traditional family values, but behind the scenes, it operates like a sex-fueled, Playboy Mansion-like cult, steeped in intimidation, indecency, and misogyny,” she said in her claim at New York state court. “Fox News knew of the sexual harassment perpetrated against Plaintiff, or at a minimum should have known about it, based upon the pervasive atmosphere of sexual harassment of female employees that was tolerated and condoned under Ailes’s leadership generally, and the brazenness of Ailes’s conduct with respect to Plaintiff.”