Fox News Anchor Gretchen Carlson Sues CEO Roger Ailes for Alleged Sexual Harassment and Retaliation
Gretchen Carlson is suing Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes.
According to papers obtained by PEOPLE, Carlson is alleging that her former employer “Ailes has unlawfully retaliated against Carlson and sabotaged her career because she refused sexual advances and complained about severe and pervasive sexual harassment.”
“I have strived to empower women and girls throughout my entire career,” Carlson, now 50, said in a statement on Wednesday. “Although this was a difficult step to take, I had to stand up for myself and speak out for all women and the next generation of women in the workplace. I am extremely proud of my accomplishments at Fox News and for keeping our loyal viewers engaged and informed on events and news topics of the day.”
Carlson claims the biggest form of Ailes’ retaliation was her firing from Fox News on June 23, nine months after allegedly “ostracizing, marginalizing and shunning” the Real Story anchor before suggesting she engage in a sexual relationship with him.
According to the legal filing: “As a direct and proximate result of her refusing his sexual advances and in retaliation for Carlson’s complaints about discrimination and harassment, Ailes terminated her employment, causing her significant, emotional and professional harm.”
Also under fire in Carlson’s filing is former Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy, whom Carlson claims “regularly treat[ed] her in a sexist and condescending way” when they worked together. The lawsuit claims Doocy “engaged in a pattern and practice of severe and pervasive sexual harassment” that was tantamount to treating her as “a blond female prop.”
Carlson – a Stanford University graduate and former Miss America – alleges Ailes, now 76, called her a “man hater” when she complained to him in 2009 about Doocy’s behavior.
Carlson claims she once again confronted Ailes in a meeting last September, and according to the legal documents: “Ailes stated: ‘I think you and I should have had a sexual relationship a long time ago and then you d be good and better and I’d be good and better,’ adding that ‘sometimes problems are easier to solve’ that way.’ ”
Carlson alleges that Ailes subsequently “pursued a highly personal agenda” by limiting her assignments and exposure on the network, and ultimately firing her from Fox & Friends in 2013, which resulted in a new time slot and a pay cut.
Carlson’s suit claims Ailes urged her to “stop worrying about being treated equally and getting ‘offended so God d— easy about everything.’ ”
She alleges he asked “her to turn around so he could view her posterior,” commented on her body and wardrobe and once told her “she was ‘sexy,’ but ‘too much hard work.’ ”
Carlson, who has been married to sports agent Casey Close since 1997, is seeking an undisclosed amount for “lost compensation, damaged career path, damage to reputation and pain and suffering damages.”
Ailes has since responded to the allegations. In a statement obtained by PEOPLE, he calls the claims “retaliatory.”
“Gretchen Carlson’s allegations are false,” he says in the statement. “This is a retaliatory suit for the network’s decision not to renew her contract, which was due to the fact that her disappointingly low ratings were dragging down the afternoon lineup. When Fox News did not commence any negotiations to renew her contract, Ms. Carlson became aware that her career with the network was likely over and conveniently began to pursue a lawsuit.”
Ailes added, “Ironically, FOX News provided her with more on-air opportunities over her 11-year tenure than any other employer in the industry, for which she thanked me in her recent book. This defamatory lawsuit is not only offensive, it is wholly without merit and will be defended vigorously.”
Fox News did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.