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Former Fox Host Gretchen Carlson Gets Apology, $20M Settlement


We have news of an apology from Fox News today. The channel and its parent company are also paying former host Gretchen Carlson $20 million, all part of a settlement of her sexual harassment lawsuit accusing the former Fox leader Roger Ailes. NPR's David Folkenflik has been covering this story. Good morning, David.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: OK, $20 million - a lot of money. Does it come with a real apology?

FOLKENFLIK: Oh, it does. It sure does. It is a lot of money. I've talked to a couple lawyers who monitor this issue, a question of sexual harassment. They couldn't recall a single person ever being paid so much for a sexual harassment claim. The apology is quite real. Let me read you part of it. Fox News and 21st Century Fox, a parent company, said, quote (reading) during her tenure at Fox News, Gretchen exhibited the highest standards of journalism and professionalism.

And the statement went on to say (reading) we are proud 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 her colleagues deserve.

Trying to tie a bow on the message that the Fox News and 21st Century Fox leadership have tried to convey, that its a different day with a different culture.

INSKEEP: Although it is half the money that we believe Roger Ailes got on his way out the door. He got $40 million in severance, it is said. Any idea who's paying this $20 million to Gretchen Carlson?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, the lion's share clearly being paid by 21st Century Fox. You know, they can do that with shareholder money. It's real money, but they won't miss it. Roger Ailes is said to be picking up some of this in some reports that have come out in recent moments. And we're going to try to learn more about that. He will take a hit, but obviously he was given an incredible cushion when he was forced out as a result of this lawsuit and other allegations against him.

INSKEEP: What about all the other women who have accused Roger Ailes?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, so about two dozen women have come forward and have participated in a legal review commissioned by the parent company to learn more about this. 21st Century Fox has confirmed that it has settled two other instances of women who made allegations against Ailes within the statute of limitations for that claim. That is, they could have filed a legal suit, did not do so, Fox paid some money to make those go away - not as high profile but there are other women, including Megyn Kelly, of course - perhaps the most famous female figure at Fox News - who said that they were harassed by Ailes. She said that that happened a decade ago when she was a young reporter in the D.C. bureau - outside the statute of limitations for a suit.

INSKEEP: David Folkenflik, one other question as we learn of this settlement for Greta - rather for Gretchen Carlson - what about other Fox News personalities? Sean Hannity comes to mind. There are a number of others who quite publicly defended him in recent months as this story came to light.

FOLKENFLIK: Well, most of them remain at the network. Greta Van Susteren today was announced by the network that she was departing. You know, she was one of the fiercest defenders of Roger Ailes. She said that it seemed to her that Gretchen Carlson was disgruntled and that the timing was suspicious as her contract had not been picked up in June. I am told by a source that Van Susteren was simply asking for more money and the network wanted no part of it. But it does seem to be linked given that it's announced today.

I would also point out that a lot of the executives that have been named to and in fact elevated in recent weeks to fill the absence of Roger Ailes were people who are accused of enabling him and certainly loyal lieutenants for the two decades that he led that network and generated so much profits for 21st Century Fox.

INSKEEP: OK, so big news but still a lot of questions - $20 million for Gretchen Carlson. David Folkenflik of NPR News, thanks very much.

FOLKENFLIK: You bet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Folkenflik was described by Geraldo Rivera of Fox News as "a really weak-kneed, backstabbing, sweaty-palmed reporter." Others have been kinder. The Columbia Journalism Review, for example, once gave him a "laurel" for reporting that immediately led the U.S. military to institute safety measures for journalists in Baghdad.
Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.