Former Fox News producer Charlie Reina has contacted us about an incident in which he reportedly witnessed Roger Ailes sexually harassing then-anchor Kiran Chetry on an escalator.
One day after former Fox host Gretchen Carlson filed her bombshell sexual harassment lawsuit against Ailes, Reina emailed NewsHounds to report that he “actually witnessed Roger Ailes sexually harassing one of his anchors, Kiran Chetry.” Reina wrote:
“The incident occurred late in 2002 or early in 2003 on the escalator outside the FNC newsroom at 1211 Ave. of the Americas. As I got onto the down escalator, Chetry was near the top of the up escalator, but had turned around and was making her way back down toward Ailes, who was several steps below her. She was clearly embarrassed and complaining to Ailes: 'Now I have to worry about being up ahead of you on the escalator!' I had arrived too late to hear what, if anything, Ailes had said to embarrass Chetry, but her complaint seemed not to bother him. His response: 'You know, I saw you standing outside my office this morning. You were facing away from my door, but I took one look at those legs of yours and thought, ‘That’s Kiran Chetry.’
What struck me most, aside from the harassment itself, was that Ailes spoke with a sense of impunity, loudly and apparently unconcerned that several people, including FNC employees, could hear him.
Up to that point, I had only heard rumors about Ailes hitting on his female employees. The Chetry incident confirmed those rumors."
In a later email, Reina wrote:
"By the way, I passed Chetry's office a short while after the incident and asked her, 'So, was the big boss hitting on the young anchor?' Her response was non-verbal: just an eye-roll and full-body shudder."
It’s important to note that the next day, July 8, before I’d had a chance to talk to Reina, Chetry sang Ailes’ praises on Huffington Post. She stated:
“Over the years at Fox, I met with Roger Ailes one-on-one many times and never once did Roger ever make me feel uncomfortable or put forth any sexual advances.”
It’s also important to note that Chetry left Fox after a dispute in which Chetry had sought to become cohost of Fox & Friends, apparently as a replacement for then-cohost Gretchen Carlson. Chetry’s career now seems to be floundering.
I have twice contacted Chetry for a response to Reina’s observations but she has not replied. When I forwarded Chetry’s Huffington Post column to Reina, he wrote, “All I can tell you is that I know what I saw and heard.”
Reina, who worked at Fox from 1997-2003, has previously blasted Fox News' bias. In 2003, he told Salon that before working for Fox, no one ever told him how to slant a story. But at Fox, Salon reported, “he and his colleagues were frequently told — sometimes directly, usually more subtly — to toe the Republican Party line.” Reina also discussed how Fox worked its politics into its programming:
All I can say is, everybody there knows what the politics of the bosses are. You feel it every day, and in good part because of this daily editorial note that comes out. I suppose there are similar things [at other networks] which say who’s stationed where that day, where the correspondents are, what we’ll be covering and so on. But [in the Fox memo], oftentimes when there are issues that involve political controversy and debate or what have you, there are also these admonitions, these subtle things like, “There is something utterly incomprehensible about Kofi Annan’s remarks in which he allows that his thoughts are ‘with the Iraqi people.’ One could ask where those thoughts were during the 23 years Saddam Hussein was brutalizing those same Iraqis. Food for thought.”
The memo sort of gives you hints. If they [Fox executives] are worried that what we write or what the anchors say might make the wrong point, it will show up in the memo … [The line producers] are mostly eager young people. They’ve got a grueling job hour-to-hour. It’s just too much trouble for them to try to buck the system. They’ve got so much to do that they just don’t want to have to explain [why they didn’t comply with the direction in the memo]. So everything gets done pretty much the way management wants it.
That mostly-indirect “guidance” seems to be a Fox News hallmark. As Fox News “mole” Joe Muto wrote in his exposé,
“Theoretically, each show could talk about whatever they wanted to talk about, and take any angle they wanted to take, and book any guest they wanted to have on. Realistically, there was tremendous pressure to hew closely to the company line.”
And so, when Fox defenders such as Harris Faulkner insist they’ve never been told to not to wear pants and, according to Mediaite, has never felt “objectified by a single person she works with,” you have to wonder how it is that nearly all the women wear short skirts or dresses that are almost always hiked up by the women’s crossed legs. Group think, subtle messaging or both? I report, you decide.
Not surprisingly, the Fox-friendly Mediaite (Fox reached out to Mediaite for its interview with three Ailes-defending female hosts) didn’t ask any of the women about the short skirts and crossed legs.
But there’s one other thing that gives further credence to the numerous other accusations of harassment that have since surfaced since Carlson’s lawsuit was filed: There’s a predatory culture at Fox. You see it in The O’Reilly Factor ambush interviews (Coincidentally, host Bill O’Reilly was also sued for sexual harassment and he allegedly physically abused his wife during their marriage), the demonization of competitors and liberals (and promotion of at least one guest who advocates violence against them), sexist remarks about women, retaliation against critics and even tolerance of assassination talk by its online commenters.
Sexual harassment would fit so perfectly into that equation, it's hard to imagine it doesn't.
Crossposted at News Hounds
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