The Fox News Channel’s Culture of Chauvinism

Two weeks ago, I noted the 25th anniversary of President George H. W. Bush’s notorious nomination of Clarence Thomas to replace Justice Thurgood Marshall on the United States Supreme Court. You may recall this anecdote from Jeffrey Toobin’s 1993 New Yorker profile of Thomas:

Thomas can no longer take runs along the [National] Mall, as he did when he was a judge on the Court of Appeals. In his first year on the Court he scarcely ever left the Supreme Court Building on foot, and that was fortunate, in one way, because it meant that he probably never saw the boldly lettered [graffiti] on a Capitol Hill sidewalk across the street. It said, “Anita [Hill] Told the Truth.”

Wouldn’t it be something if an individual wrote on the sidewalk outside of Fox News Channel headquarters, “Gretchen Told the Truth”?

I hope that former Fox personality Gretchen Carlson’s sexual harassment lawsuit against Roger Ailes is not settled out of court. It should go to trial–and the world should hear the full story about the culture of chauvinism at Fox.

What motive would Carlson have to lie? None. Her credibility is unimpeachable; it was that credibility that made her, along with Shepard Smith, one of the two reservoirs of reason at the network.

Carlson is every bit as courageous as Rick Piltz, who blew the whistle on the Bush administration’s war on climate science, and Meggie Noel and Kylie Webster-Cazeau, who blew the whistle on relentless racism at America’s oldest public high school. It takes true grit to do what Carlson did.

Think about it: tomorrow, women all across the country will have to put up with harassment at the hands of sex-fiend supervisors who think viewing women as little more than T & A is just OK. Women all the across the country will be denied raises and promotions because they did not succumb to the sexual demands of those who wield power over them. Women all across the country will have to endure employers who see them as erotic entertainment.

Carlson is a woman without fear–and her courage and moral witness have inspired more women to step forward. I hope Carlson inspires even more women to stand up against oppression and discrimination in the workplace.

When will powerful men with prurient minds understand that they can’t treat women this way? When will they realize that treating women with respect is not “political correctness,” but basic common sense? Yes, I know, #notallmen…but too many men, and for far too long.

We know about the history of harassment at Fox. We know that women are regarded as third-class citizens there. We know that Roger Ailes has a track record.

We also know that Gretchen Carlson finally had enough.

For a generation of women, Anita Hill represented courage under fire–a strong, smart “shero” who refused to take crap from a chauvinist in charge, who refused to remain quiet, who refused to suffer while her saboteur succeeded.  For a new generation of women, Gretchen Carlson may be a similar symbol of courage. To challenge media, political and cultural power in this manner takes formidable fortitude.

If you told me a few weeks ago that a Fox personality would emerge as a feminist hero, I would have urged you to seek psychiatric help. Now, it’s clear that the only people who need help are the folks who have maintained a culture of sexism at Fox, the folks who denigrated and discriminated against Carlson, the folks who have yet to learn that women are people too.

Teach ‘em that lesson, Ms. Carlson. Teach ‘em about justice.

UPDATE: More from Media Matters, Gabriel Sherman, the Hollywood Reporter and Politico.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.