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Fox Will Pay Gretchen Carlson $20 Million To Settle Sexual Harassment Suit

In July, Gretchen Carlson filed a lawsuit accusing then-Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes of sexual harassment.
Noam Galai
Getty Images for GIFF
In July, Gretchen Carlson filed a lawsuit accusing then-Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes of sexual harassment.

Two months after former Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson accused Fox News' then-Chairman Roger Ailes of sexual harassment, the network's parent company has agreed to pay Carlson $20 million and make a "highly unusual public apology," NPR's David Folkenflik reports.

News of the settlement was first reported Tuesday morning by Vanity Fair; a source with knowledge of the settlement then confirmed the deal to David, and the company later issued a statement about it.

"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," 21st Century Fox says in part of that statement.

In another development at Fox News, longtime anchor Greta Van Susteren is leaving the network. The departure is immediate — she will not host tonight's edition of her 7 p.m. ET show. As David notes, Van Susteren "had initially dismissed" the seriousness of Carlson's allegations.

As for Carlson, she tweeted this morning, "I'm ready to move on to the next chapter in my life."

"The accusations are not subtle," David reported in July, describing Carlson's lawsuit.

Here's a brief summary from that report:

"In a lawsuit filed in a New Jersey civil court on Wednesday, lawyers for Carlson allege Ailes repeatedly dismissed her concerns that her colleagues on Fox & Friends had created a pervasively sexist atmosphere, telling her to learn to 'get along with the boys.'

"When Carlson met with Ailes to complain, she alleges Ailes replied, 'I think you and I should have had a sexual relationship a long time ago.' The suit says Ailes explained, 'Sometimes problems are easier to solve that way.' In other conversations, Carlson contends, Ailes underscored what he could do for her career if she would look upon his invitations favorably. And she says he frequently ogled her, commenting on her figure and telling her to turn around so he could see her rear."

Carlson, whose contract with Fox News expired in June, says her refusal of sexual advances led to recrimination that included a pay cut, a shift to a lower-profile afternoon show, and the lack of chances to conduct important interviews.

Ailes initially said Carlson's "allegations are false" and that she had sued in retaliation after her contract wasn't renewed. But two weeks after the suit was filed, Ailes resigned from his post as chairman and CEO of Fox News.

In the wake of Carlson's suit, other women who worked at Fox came forward with similar allegations — including anchor Megyn Kelly, as New York magazine reported, and Andrea Tantaros, the host of The Five, among others, as David reported in August.

Problems at Fox News extended beyond Ailes, author Gabriel Sherman told NPR's Terry Gross in late July. Here's some of what Sherman, who wrote a book about Ailes and the rise of Fox News, had to say:

"It's not about Roger Ailes. It's about a culture — a television news network that played an undeniable role in reshaping American politics over the last 20 years. And it was a culture where this type of behavior was encouraged and protected. The allegations are that women routinely had to sleep with or be propositioned by their manager — in many cases, Roger Ailes, but I've reported on another manager who did this — in exchange for promotions.

"And so this is a culture where women felt pressured to participate in sexual activity with their superiors if they wanted to advance inside the company. And it was so — it was shocking to me — it was not that it occurred, but that it was so explicit, that it was — there was no subtext. There was no subtlety to it. It was just there. It was just almost blatantly stated. If you want this, you have to have sex with me or allow me to make sexually unwanted comments about you. And it was so blatant that it's almost now unbelievable. But it — we're learning more and more every day. This is what women who worked there had to endure for the last 20 years."

Today, both 21st Century Fox and Carlson issued statements about the settlement.

Here's 21st Century Fox:

"21st Century Fox is pleased to announce that it has settled Gretchen Carlson's lawsuit. During her tenure at Fox News, Gretchen exhibited the highest standards of journalism and professionalism. She developed a loyal audience and was a daily source of information for many Americans. 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."

And here's Carlson:

"I am gratified that 21st Century Fox took decisive action after I filed my Complaint. I'm ready to move on to the next chapter of my life in which I will redouble my efforts to empower women in the workplace. I want to thank all the brave women who came forward to tell their own stories and the many people across the country who embraced and supported me in their #StandWithGretchen. All women deserve a dignified and respectful workplace in which talent, hard work and loyalty are recognized, revered and rewarded."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.