In the wake of former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson’s sexual harassment allegations against Roger Ailes, more then “two dozen” women currently or formerly employed at Fox have come forward with similar and even darker tales of harassment that go beyond the network’s former CEO.
In a report from the New York Times this Saturday, Former Fox personality Rudi Bakhtiar recalled an incident she had with her then-supervisor Fox News Washington Bureau Chief Brian Wilson. According to her account, in 2007 Wilson offered the possibility of a promotion for Bakhtiar, of which she enthusiastically accepted. Upon hearing her reply, Wilson allegedly said “I’d like to see the inside of your hotel room,” adding that he wanted to have a “friends with benefits” relationship with her.
When she refused, Bakhtiar says that her appearances on the network were immediately canceled and her career began to deteriorate. Within weeks, she was fired for what Ailes described to her as “performance-related” reasons.
“In a short time, she went from thinking she was in line to land the job she coveted to unemployment,” said the Times report. “After a mediation process, she reached a settlement in which Fox News paid her an undisclosed amount.”
When confronted by the Times regarding Bakhtiar’s account, Wilson’s denial was vague, yet brief.
“I take strong exception to the facts of the story as you have relayed it to me, period. Beyond that, I will have no further comment,” Wilson said.
The Times spoke with about a dozen women who said they had experienced some form of sexual harassment or intimidation at Fox News or the Fox Business Network, and half a dozen more who said they had witnessed it. Two of them cited Mr. Ailes and the rest cited other supervisors. With the exception of Ms. Bakhtiar, they all spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing embarrassment and fear of retribution. Most continue to work in television and worry that speaking out could damage their careers.
If the sexual-harassment allegations are true, the Fox News chairman comes close to being the perfect villain. https://t.co/gmQ65mjDHG
— The New Yorker (@NewYorker) July 20, 2016
The stories from the women interviewed by the Times all echo Carlson and Bakhtiar’s experiences, describing a rampant culture of harassment where comments on women’s “appearance and sex life,” with managers trying to “set up their employees on dates with superiors.”
“As we’ve made clear, there’s absolutely no room anywhere at our company for behavior that disrespects women or contributes to an uncomfortable work environment,” Julie Henderson, a spokeswoman for 21st Century Fox, said in a statement on Friday.
One woman who is still employed at Fox said she was repeatedly pressured to go on dates with a show producer. She eventually gave in, but finally declined his advances after two dates. Soon after, he ceased to have her appear on his show.
One current employee said that she was with a male supervisor in a closed-door, one-on-one meeting in 2009 when she asked to work on an assignment. He turned to her and said, “Sure,” then conditioned it on oral sex. The woman said she laughed it off, thinking that she would face retaliation and be demoted if she told him that the comment was inappropriate.
This woman also said that meetings were filled with sexual innuendo and that supervisors had routinely asked her about her sex life. She said that she was at a happy hour outside the office last year and an executive approached her and whispered in her ear that the full-length zipper on the back of her dress was quite provocative.
Almost all the women interviewed by the Times said that they were scared to take their complaints to human resources for fear of retaliation.
“There is a culture where, not that you accept it, you just deal with it,” one former employee said.
Below is a 2006 appearance by Bakhtiar on Fox News Live: