Veteran TV producer Shelley Ross is the latest woman in the industry to accuse former Fox News chairman-CEO Roger Ailes of sexual harassment.
Ross wrote in a 3,500-word essay for the Daily Beast that Ailes proposed a “sexual alliance” after hiring her as a segment producer on NBC’s “Tomorrow Show” in 1981.
“‘When did you first discover you were sexy?'” Ross recalls Ailes asking during lunch the day after accepting the job offer. “My head suddenly dropped like a marionette and I could no longer make eye contact. I could only manage to stare at my feet as I answered, ‘I am finding this conversation very embarrassing,'” Ross writes.
Ailes, who was executive producer of the late-night show at the time, then stressed the importance of loyalty and allegedly insisted that “the best expression of that loyalty comes in the form of a ‘sexual alliance.'”
Ailes apologized and “blamed the harassment on ‘middle age craziness'” after three NBC lawyers intervened following yet another uncomfortable conversation with the exec, according to Ross.
He tried to make amends 30 years later.
“During the summer of 2012, Roger phoned me to say he was recommending me for a big job — to run CNN. (The job went to Jeff Zucker who then quickly took over the job of the man who hired him.) That same year, when Roger learned I was battling cancer, he sent me a giant basket from Rao’s containing six pastas and six different sauces,” she wrote.
Ross, who served as executive producer of CBS’ “Early Show” and ABC’s “Good Morning America,” stressed that Ailes is one of many execs who abuse their positions of power.
“My point: You can’t just have one villain, not even Roger Ailes,” she writes. “For 30 years I have witnessed a pervasive culture populated by more than a few morally repugnant executives and those who kept their jobs by not making waves around them.”
Her solution is akin to the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commissions, which allowed apartheid victims to speak publicly about their experiences, and encouraged perpetrators to give testimony.
“Fox News should take the lead in a kind of sexual harassment Truth and Reconciliation project,” Ross writes. “I’ll help organize it.”
Ailes resigned from the network last month after 20 years as the head of the news operation, following sexual harassment allegations from a slew of women (some dating as far back as the 1960s), triggered by a lawsuit filed by ex-“Fox and Friends” host Gretchen Carlson.