From Lawsuit Prep to Resignation
The Washington Post’s Manuel Roig-Franzia, Scott Higham, Paul Farhi, and Krissah Thompson turn in a must read on the runup to Gretchen Carlson’s lawsuit and how it brought down Roger Ailes.
One day in early June, an embattled but determined news anchor, a public relations man and a group of attorneys settled into chairs around the conference table on the 35th floor of a law office on Madison Avenue in Manhattan.
Gretchen Carlson’s tenure as an on-air host at Fox News was imperiled, and she knew it. For the previous nine months she’d been quietly meeting with attorneys to craft a sexual-harassment lawsuit against her boss, the all-powerful Fox News chairman, Roger Ailes. Now she was almost ready to go public with her allegation that Ailes had sabotaged her career because she wouldn’t have sex with him. But questions ricocheted around the room.
What would be the fallout? How would this be perceived? How would it play?
“We knew Fox was a high-powered, very potent machine that would go into full attack mode,” recalled Carlson’s public relations agent, Allan Ripp, who was meeting his client for the first time that day. “But she was resolved.”
Within weeks, Carlson would be out of a job, and a cascading series of events, unfolding with dizzying speed, would culminate in the public shaming and resignation this week of Ailes, one of the most influential executives in American television history, as well as a primary architect of the modern-day Republican Party and conservative movement. News of Carlson’s firing, and the lawsuit she filed shortly thereafter, have now prompted 25 women to come forward with what they describe as similar harassment claims against Ailes that stretch across five decades back to his days in the 1960s as a young television producer, according to Carlson’s attorney, Nancy Erika Smith.