You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

For Fox News, Road to Trust and Respect Seems Long

The Murdoch family’s firing of Bill O’Reilly follows sexual harassment allegations that — depending on how you count — lasted either three weeks or 13 years. By either reckoning, the top executives at 21st Century Fox and Fox News took far too long to act.

It’s a testament to how much attitudes have changed over the past decade that the far more graphic allegations from accuser Andrea Mackris in 2004 — which included difficult-to-refute taped conversations — didn’t stick at first. It wasn’t until The New York Times uncovered evidence of a long-running pattern of settlements for harassment claims that O’Reilly began to feel the heat.

Can Fox News’ culture really change? The family at the top of 21st Century Fox wants it to — enough so that they’ve done the fraught and expensive work of firing O’Reilly and former Fox News boss Roger Ailes. But their intentions were mitigated by the announcement that Tucker Carlson — who in 2006 posited that Democrats had “made up the concept of sexual harassment” — would take O’Reilly’s former 8 p.m. slot.

O’Reilly and Ailes might have been the only Fox News personnel to engage in sexual harassment — though that’s no certainty — but Carlson and other Fox News talking heads routinely disavow the existence of misogyny. Carlson has called Hillary Clinton “castrating” and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hi.) “the prettiest member of Congress.” Fox News commentators, including Carlson, dispute the existence of sexual harassment, the glass ceiling and the gender wage gap. The network has blamed feminism — or any empowerment or expansion of women’s role in the world — as a blight on masculinity, motherhood, the family, national security (?!) and, of course, women themselves. Carlson, a man who complained about a plus-size model on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition, has argued that women don’t go into politics because they are too “sensible” and have “real things to do.”

How, exactly, is he going to change the culture?

It must be sobering for Fox News to realize that the ideas they have denigrated, lampooned and complained about are the ones they now need to embrace. The suits and their attendant investigations are still ongoing. As the past year has indicated, Fox News cannot any longer go forward pretending that sexual harassment doesn’t exist, or that institutional and structural obstacles for the advancement of women don’t exist. Those very forces have led to the network’s current staffing crisis — a drain of its top talent due to either firing for misconduct or flight from misconduct.

There is a way forward for Fox News — a way that doesn’t risk hypocrisy or self-destruction. It requires accepting that it’s not just white, rich men who deserve to be in power. It requires hiring broadly and pursuing applicants with diverse backgrounds. It requires taking institutional supports for nontraditional employees seriously. It requires caring about diverse constituencies. It requires not dismissing misogyny as a liberal smear campaign or racism as a finely tuned progressive hoax. It requires viewing and reporting facts with reason and compassion.

I hope Fox News can find this place. It would be fascinating to see if the network could become a conservative media brand that didn’t rely on grousing about “victimhood” or “identity politics” in order to make its points; we need that voice in our media landscape. Advertisers, employees, viewers and the Murdochs themselves are saying they want Fox News to be better. Let’s see if the network can follow through.

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Tin Star

    Sky Studios Launches U.K. Innovation Hub in Northern England

    Sky Studios is set to follow Channel 4’s move to the northern English city of Leeds with the launch of a new Innovation Hub. Sky Studios, the production arm of pay-TV giant Sky, said Wednesday that the new regional hub would focus on talent development, scripted partnerships and new content experiences, creating new original drama, [...]

  • THE BACHELORETTE - "The Bachelorette: Season

    'The Bachelor': ABC Announces Leading Man For Season 24

    ABC has cast its next leading man for Season 24 of “The Bachelor.” Peter Weber has officially been named the upcoming “Bachelor.” The announcement was made Tuesday night on ABC’s “Bachelor In Paradise” reunion special. Weber appeared on Season 15 of “The Bachelorette” with Hannah Brown, ultimately becoming the second runner-up. He was a fan-favorite [...]

  • SEAL TEAM stars David Boreanaz (left),

    Showrunner John Glenn Exits 'SEAL Team' at CBS

    CBS is cutting ties with “SEAL Team” showrunner John Glenn, Variety has confirmed. Glenn joined the show for its second season, which premiered in October of last year. Christopher Chulack, Sarah Timberman and Carl Beverly also executive produced. “Regarding ‘SEAL Team,’ I am proud of the work we did – and greatly enjoyed having the chance to [...]

  • NBC Campaign Aims to Reclaim Brand

    NBC Launches Campaign to Reclaim Brand Ownership of Hit Comedies (EXCLUSIVE)

    NBC is preparing a new salvo in the streaming-era TV branding wars. As audiences increasingly watch shows like “The Good Place” and “Superstore” on other platforms, the Peacock network has launched a new campaign to remind them that these are, first and foremost, NBC shows. And they’re even enlisting a real-life peacock to convey the [...]

  • Shane Gillis

    'SNL' Sought Conservative Appeal With Shane Gillis Hire

    “Saturday Night Live” was looking to shake things up with the casting of Shane Gillis — and it did, albeit unintentionally. According to sources, the long-running NBC comedy show and series mastermind Lorne Michaels were actively looking to cast a comedian for its new season who would appeal to more conservative viewers. This was meant [...]

  • TV News Roundup: Netflix Announces Arsenio

    TV News Roundup: Netflix Announces Arsenio Hall's Comedy Special Premiere Date

    In today’s TV news roundup, Netflix announced the premiere date for Arsenio Hall’s comedy special and a “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” duo (among others) will guest star on “Elena of Avalor.” CASTING “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” stars Rachel Brosnahan and Tony Shalhoub, as well as Auli’i Cravalho (“Moana”), John Leguizamo (“When They See Us”), Taye Diggs (“All American”), Eugenio Derbez [...]

  • How 'Save Our Show' Campaigns Affect

    From 'The OA' to 'One Day at a Time': How 'Save Our Show' Campaigns Affect Network Interest

    Organized flash mobs and mounting billboards still may not save your favorite shows, as some fan campaigns are finding out. Following Netflix’s most recent decision to stand firm on its cancellation of “The OA,” the question remains, “what will save these shows?” When networks and streamers find that smaller favorites aren’t big cash cows, fans [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content