Attorneys for Fox News Chairman and Chief Executive Roger Ailes are denying allegations of decades-old incidents of sexual harassment that are surfacing in the aftermath of the lawsuit filed by former anchor Gretchen Carlson.
The incidents, reported in New York magazine, are from women who contacted attorneys representing Carlson, who filed a sexual harassment and retaliation suit against Ailes on July 7. Two of them spoke on the record to Gabriel Sherman, the author of a 2014 unauthorized biography of Ailes.
The most recent account in the magazine report is from 1989. Kellie Boyle, 54, a former Republican National Committee field advisor, said Ailes suggested she have sex with him in return for helping advance her career in politics.
Boyle had received an introduction to Ailes through her husband, at the time a communications executive for CNBC. She describes a conversation she had in Ailes’ car after they met for dinner in Washington.
“He said, ‘You know if you want to play with the big boys, you have to lay with the big boys.’ I was so taken aback. I said, ‘Gosh I didn’t know that. How would that work?’ I was trying to kill time because I didn’t know if he was going to attack me. I was just talking until I could get out of the car. He said, ‘That’s the way it works,’ and he started naming other women he’s had. He said that’s how all these men in media and politics work — everyone’s got their friend.”
Ailes had been President George H.W. Bush’s chief media advisor in 1988, but never had an official role with the RNC where Boyle worked.
The other on-the record account is from Marsha Callahan, a 73-year-old former model, who alleges that Ailes propositioned her for sex when she auditioned for him to work on “The Mike Douglas Show” in the late 1960s. Ailes was a producer on the syndicated talk program at the time.
Four other unnamed women also gave their stories the magazine. Three were identified as former models who said they were subjected to inappropriate behavior by Ailes when he was a TV producer in the 1960s.
The fourth woman, identified as a former TV producer, said Ailes asked her to have sex with him when they met at his New York apartment for a job interview in 1975.
Barry Esen of Epstein Becker Green, the firm representing Ailes, denied all of the accounts in a statement.
"It has become obvious that Ms. Carlson and her lawyer are desperately attempting to litigate this in the press because they have no legal case to argue,” Esen said. “The latest allegations, all 30 to 50 years old, are false."
Carlson’s suit alleges that Ailes made sexually inappropriate comments to her. It also says he damaged her career in retaliation for her rebuffing sexual advances and complaining about a hostile work environment. After Carlson’s suit was filed, Smith she said received numerous calls from women wanting to relate their own experiences with Ailes.
Ailes, 76, has denied Carlson’s charges. Fox News’ parent company, 21st Century Fox, is conducting an internal investigation.
“Today, six brave women voluntarily spoke out to New York magazine detailing their traumatic sexual harassment by Ailes,” Smith said in a statement. “We are hearing from others. Then, Barry Asen, Ailes' lawyer, accused Gretchen of ‘litigating in the press’ and, without any investigation, within three hours, claimed that the allegations are false. How does he know that? Women have the right to speak out – whether Ailes likes it or not – even about trauma they endured years ago and that haunts them to this day.”
On Friday, Ailes’ attorneys filed a motion asking that Carlson’s case not be heard in court. They cited Carlson’s contract with Fox News, which had a clause requiring any employment incident be handled in a confidential arbitration hearing.
The motion filed by Ailes’ attorneys said Carlson’s filing of the case in court was done “so that her counsel could tar Mr. Ailes’ reputation publicly, try this case in the media press, and coerce him to settle.”
Carlson’s attorneys said they “intend to fight for her right to a public jury trial.”
Carlson, 50, was an anchor and co-host on Fox News for 11 years. Her contract with the network was not renewed after it expired on June 23. Fox News has cited her ratings as the reason for her release from the cable news channel.