Former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson has sued the network’s president, Roger Ailes, claiming that he fired her after she rebuffed his sexual advances.
In a lawsuit filed Wednesday morning, the former daytime host says the Fox News mastermind repeatedly harassed and demeaned her with “severe and pervasive” sexual harassment before she was officially fired on June 23—the final day of her contract.
According to the lawsuit, Ailes tried to convince Carlson to sleep with him “by various means,” including the inclusion of “sexual and/or sexist comments” into everyday conversation. Last September, the 76-year-old executive allegedly told her: “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.”
“Sometimes problems are easier to solve that way,” Ailes purportedly added.
Carlson, a 1989 Miss America, also said Ailes publicly degraded her with sexist comments about how “he had slept with three former Miss Americas, but not with her.”
The 50-year-old journalist has previously opened up about her past experience with sexual harassment and assault in the industry. Early in her television career, a top executive “threw himself on top of me and stuck his tongue down my throat,” she wrote in her book last year. A few months later, Carlson said a public-relations exec shoved her face into his crotch in the backseat of a car.
Carlson also alleges that Ailes repeatedly asked her to “turn around so he could view her posterior, commented repeatedly about her legs, and instructed her to wear certain outfits that he claimed enhanced her figure.”
Carlson said that Ailes would regularly comment on certain outfits that enhanced her figure, “urging her to wear them every day.” He’d also comment “repeatedly about her legs,” the suit alleges, in addition to “lamenting that marriage was ‘boring, hard, and not much fun.’"
Ailes said he always “stays seated when a woman walks over to him so she has to ‘bend over’ to say hello," according to the lawsuit.
When Ailes wasn’t allegedly trying to sleep with Carlson, he was ignoring her repeated complaints about sexual harassment from other men at Fox News.
In particular, the lawsuit points a finger at former Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy.
On or around September 3, 2009, Carlson complained that Doocy created a hostile work environment by “regularly treating her in a sexist and condescending way,” including “putting his hand on her and pulling down her arm to shush her during a live telecast.” Doocy also allegedly mocked her during commercial breaks and, in Carlson’s estimation, treated her as a “blond female prop.”
In return, the suit alleges, Ailes mocked her and told her to stop taking offense “so God damned easy.” Ailes also allegedly called her a “man hater” and “killer” telling her she needed to "learn to get along with the boys."
In 2013, she was moved from the morning gabfest and given a midday slot to host her own show, The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson. This was effectively a demotion, the lawsuit alleges, because Ailes “reduced her compensation and withheld network support and promotion for her show.”
Carlson seeks compensatory damages for mental anguish caused by the years of alleged sexual harassment.
“Notwithstanding her strong performance and tireless work ethic,” the lawsuit concludes, “Ailes denied Carlson fair compensation, desirable assignments and other career-enhancing opportunities in retaliation for her complaints of harassment and discrimination because she rejected his sexual advances.”
Fox News did not immediately respond to request for comment.