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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.


With each new disturbing allegation, it’s become increasingly clear that a toxic atmosphere has flourished at Fox News, where powerful men have allegedly harassed and assaulted women for years.

The latest lawsuit to tumble out arrived on Monday, when Fox News contributor Julie Roginsky filed suit in court and claimed that former Fox News chief Roger Ailes had made unwanted sexual advances to her and implied he would reward her with a big promotion if she agreed.

This, of course, comes eight months after the Fox News founder and CEO was ousted following an avalanche of ugly allegations about sexual harassment.

It’s all disturbingly reminiscent of the cascade of accusations that tumbled forth last summer about then-President-elect Donald Trump, whose disregard for women was also caught in a recording of his boasts of sexual assault made in 2005 on the set of Access Hollywood.

Some of the allegations at Fox News were similar: We learned that men who have worked in positions of power at Fox News allegedly groped women, kissed them against their will, made inappropriate sexual comments, asked about female employees’ sex lives, promised promotions in exchange for sex, cut short careers of women who took offense, and scheduled “phone sex in the office.” (That’s when they weren’t demanding oral sex from female subordinates.)

And oh yeah, federal prosecutors are now investigating whether Fox News’ parent company “made insufficient disclosures to its investors about settlements of sexual-harassment claims.”

The new Roginsky suit arrives just days after a New York Times investigation revealed that Fox and anchor Bill O’Reilly have spent approximately $13 million to pay off female colleagues who have accused O’Reilly of abusive behavior. (O’Reilly reportedly makes about $18 million a year at Fox News.)

Of course, the problem of sexual harassment and assault is by no means limited to only “conservative” workplaces, but it’s telling that three of the most powerful men in Republican politics over the past few decades — Trump, O’Reilly, and Ailes — have all repeatedly been accused of systemic harassment of female employees and predatory behavior.

And that’s why Fox News and Trump are inexorably linked — not just politically, but culturally, as their hallmark misogyny seems to flow with the same urgency.

That’s why Fox News figures, including O’Reilly, reflexively defended Trump and dismissed and belittledthose who brought allegations against him.

Now, as the burgeoning O’Reilly crisis grows reignites, the sexual harassment and assaults allegedly perpetrated by Fox figures and Trump have returned to the spotlight.

O’Reilly, Ailes, and Trump are putting a particularly disturbing face on the conservative movement: that of a triumvirate of wealthy, elderly, and powerful men towing behind them a list of public accusers stretching back decades. These three men unequivocally helped shape the Republican Party and right-wing media in recent years. And all three have repeatedly been accused of predatory behavior toward women. (Do conservatives even care that the movement is synonymous with misogyny? Amanda Marcotte at Salon argues they do not.)

For now, Fox News bosses have to switch gears back to sexual harassment crisis management mode, the kind that defined their 2016 summer. But those executives can’t say people didn’t try to warn them.

They can’t say that when the tawdry Ailes sex scandal exploded in plain view that people didn’t encourage Rupert Murdoch and his family to take honest stock of the disturbing, predatory work environment that had been enshrined at Fox News for years.

Last summer, I urged James and Lachlan Murdoch to do the right thing and divorce Fox News from Ailes’ decades-old culture harassment and assault:

[A]re they going to simply remove Ailes, read an outside investigation about rampant sexual harassment allegations, shelve the lecherous findings, and carry on without any kind of radical shift in leadership? It doesn’t seem possible that just one man was responsible for that much alleged harassment.

Meaning, if James and Lachlan make no concerted effort to fix the widespread problems facing the women working at Fox News, that means James and Lachlan will soon own that problem and that stigma.

Today, the Murdochs own the stigma because they did almost nothing to try to eradicate it last year. Yes, they commissioned an independent investigation into Ailes, hiring the law firm Paul, Weiss. But they apparently tailored a very narrow inquiry and seemed determined not to uncover the larger rot at the root of the cable channel. (Fox seemed about as interested in owning up to its dark harassment past as Trump did on the campaign trail last year.)

“Paul, Weiss, according to a source close to the investigation, never expanded to look deeply into phone and e-mail records throughout the company to unearth evidence of a culture of sexual harassment,” writes Sarah Ellison at Vanity Fair this week.

How un-serious was the Murdochs’ house-cleaning? Fox News’ Bill Shine, who has specifically been accused of covering up harassment for years, was promoted and made co-president of the channel. Fast forward seven months and yes, once again Shine is accused of covering for Fox News’ serial harassers.

Reporting on the latest Ailes lawsuit, NPR reported:

“Shine retaliated against plaintiff because of her complaints of harassment and retaliation [against Ailes],” the lawsuit reads, “and because of plaintiff’s refusal to malign Gretchen Carlson and join ‘Team Roger’ when Carlson sued Ailes … Shine also aided and abetted Ailes’ acts of retaliation and harassment.”

In other words, the company’s idea of cleaning up the rancid culture inside Fox News is to help craft multimillion-dollar settlements for accusers and to make sure not to remove many of the people regularly accused of harassment or of facilitating the cover-ups.

I’m sure Trump approves.


President Trump and former Vice President Biden at first 2020 presidential debate

Screenshot from C-Span YouTube

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Donald Trump is claiming that he will still debate despite the rule change that will cut off the candidates' microphones while their opponent delivers his initial two-minute response to each of the debate's topics. But everything else Trump and his campaign are saying sounds like they're laying the groundwork to back out.

"I will participate," Trump told reporters Monday night. "But it's very unfair that they changed the topics and it's very unfair that again we have an anchor who's totally biased." At his Arizona rally Monday, Trump attacked moderator Kristen Welker as a "radical Democrat" and claimed she had "deleted her entire account," which is false. Trump's campaign manager, Bill Stepien, went further in his whining about the debate.

Stepien touted a letter to the Commission on Presidential Debates as "Our letter to the BDC (Biden Debate Commission)." That letter came before the CPD announced that it would mute microphones for portions of the debate in response to Trump's constant interruptions at the first debate, though Stepien knew such a decision was likely coming, writing, "It is our understanding from media reports that you will soon be holding an internal meeting to discuss other possible rule changes, such as granting an unnamed person the ability to shut off a candidate's microphone. It is completely unacceptable for anyone to wield such power, and a decision to proceed with that change amounts to turning further editorial control of the debate over to the Commission which has already demonstrated its partiality to Biden."

Shooooot, here I thought it was generous to Trump that the microphones will only be cut to give each candidate two uninterrupted minutes, leaving Trump the remainder of each 15-minute debate segment to interrupt.

But what did Stepien mean by "other possible rule changes," you ask? What was the first rule change? Well, it wasn't one. Stepien wrote to strongly complain that "We write with great concern over the announced topics for what was always billed as the 'Foreign Policy Debate' in the series of events agreed to by both the Trump campaign and the Biden campaign many months ago." Welker's announced topics include "Fighting COVID-19, American families, Race in America, Climate Change, National Security, and Leadership," Stepien complained, using this as a launching pad to attack Biden on foreign policy.

Except this debate was never billed as a foreign policy debate. It's true that in past years, the third debate has sometimes focused on foreign policy, but here in 2020, the CPD's original announcement of debate formats and moderators said of the third debate, "The format for the debate will be identical to the first presidential debate," and the first debate "will be divided into six segments of approximately 15 minutes each on major topics to be selected by the moderator."

So even before the CPD finalized the decision to prevent Trump from interrupting for two minutes in each of six segments, so 12 minutes out of a 90-minute debate, Team Trump was falsely complaining that the debate was rigged. No wonder—as a Biden campaign spokesman noted, the Trump campaign is upset "because Donald Trump is afraid to face more questions about his disastrous Covid response."

Trump has lost one debate and backed out of one debate. If he goes into this one with the attitude he's showing now—attacking the moderator, attacking the topics, enraged that he can't interrupt for two entire minutes at a time—he's going to lose this one, badly, once again hurting his already weak reelection prospects. So which will it be? Back out and have that be the story, or alienate one of the largest audiences of the entire presidential campaign by showing what kind of person he is?