Four months after filing the sexual harassment lawsuit that forced the resignation of Fox News chairman-CEO Roger Ailes, former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson told ABC News’ “20/20” she hopes her experience will encourage other victims of workplace harassment to speak out.
Carlson’s lawsuit against Ailes shook Fox News to its foundation and spurred a stunningly swift downfall of the executive who built Fox News from scratch 2o years ago. Friday’s edition of “20/20” marked Carlson’s first TV interview since the upheaval, but Carlson told ABC News’ Amy Robach she could not discuss the case because of the $20 million settlement she reached with Fox News in September.
“I hope I’ve helped other women to win,” she said when asked by Robach if she felt she had achieved a victory with her lawsuit. Carlson filed suit against Ailes in July after Fox News failed to renew her contract. Carlson maintains she was demoted from high-profile anchor slots at Fox News when she refused Ailes advanced and after she complained of mistreatment by another male anchor.
The “20/20” broadcast also featured lurid allegations about Ailes from former Fox News talent booker Laurie Luhn. Luhn maintains she had a sexual relationship on and off with Ailes for more than 20 years, after the two met in the late 1980s during the presidential campaign of George H.W. Bush.
Luhn detailed allegations of Ailes ordering her to strip down to lingerie and dance for him — encounters Ailes would instigate by telling Luhn that she “needed some training.” She claims she received promotions at Fox News in exchange for those sexual favors. Luhn said she received a $3 million separation agreement from Fox News in 201o after she reported Ailes’ behavior to the news division’s general counsel.
Luhn said she was unaware that Carlson other women at Fox News were allegedly targets of sexual harassment by Ailes. Megyn Kelly, Fox’s biggest female star, hastened Ailes’ demise after Carlson’s suit was filed when she disclosed to Fox News’ internal investigators her experiences with Ailes when she was starting out at the network in 2006.
In a statement to “20/20,” Ailes denied Luhn’s allegations. “Ms. Luhn is someone I once regarded as a friend and a person who I helped for many years,” Ailes’ statement reads. “The stories she is telling now are fabrications built on half-truths and outright lies, and I can only assume are opportunistically intended to thrust her back into the limelight at my expense. Moreover, they are contradicted by her own prior public statements. It is sad that ABC is willing to air this story without verifying the facts.”
Carlson said she plans to testify before Congress soon on the push to ease the common employment contractual provision that disputes are handled through private arbitration rather than civil courts. Carlson’s suit got around the arbitration clause by targeting Ailes as an individual rather than Fox News itself.
Carlson said she has also launched a foundation to help “empower women.” Robach during the interview disclosed her own experience with sexual harassment.
“Finding another job is not a realistic way to solve this problem,” Carlson said. “Women should not have to face this in the workplace, period.”