Could Gretchen Carlson's Suit Take Down Fox News's Roger Ailes?

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on July 08, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Gretchen Carlson followed up the Fourth of July holiday with some fireworks of her own, this week. On Wednesday, the former Fox News host filed suit against Roger Ailes, the chairman and CEO of the conservative news channel, alleging that Ailes created a hostile work environment and took her off air when she refused his advances.

Here's a look at her allegations, and what they might mean for Ailes' future at Fox.

"Get Along With the Boys"

Carlson's suit details a series of boorish and sexist alleged behavior taken by Ailes. That includes an accusation that Ailes explicitly asked her for sex during a meeting in his office, saying, "I think you and I should have had a sexual relationship a long time ago and then you'd be good and better and I'd be good and better." What's worse, the two were meeting to discuss Carlson's complaints of discrimination, the suit claims.

Shortly after turning down Ailes' advances, Carlson was fired, according to the suit.

And while the suit names Ailes alone as a defendant, it doesn't withhold from implicating the rest of the Fox News culture. That included being called a "man hater" and told she needed to "get along with the boys," when she complained. Carlson specifically calls out her former co-host, Steve Doocy, who she says "generally attempt[ed] to put her in her place by refusing to accept and treat her as an intelligent and insightful female journalist rather than a blond female prop."

Cracks in the Armor

The lawsuit is "an almost unprecedented public attack" on Ailes, the New York Times notes. Ailes and Fox News have benefited from the loyalty of employees for years; allegations of wrongdoing at Fox, from someone whose public persona is so deeply connected with Fox News, are a surprising departure from the network's norm.

But they also come at a time when Ailes' control over the network is increasingly in question. The network, which has long been associated with the Republican party, has frequently clashed with the GOP's nominee, Donald Trump, while watching its lead over competing networks narrow. And while Ailes has the support of Rupert Murdoch, Murdoch's sons, James and Lachlan, are playing increasingly important roles at Fox, and aren't exactly fans of Ailes.

The Murdochs have brought on an independent lawyer to investigate Carlson's allegations, something normal for most companies, but unprecedented at Fox, New York magazine reports. Should that investigation or Carlson's lawsuit reveal strong evidence of wrongdoing on Ailes' part, it could be used to oust Ailes.

"It's a coup," an insider told the magazine.

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