Gretchen Carlson says she felt completely panicked after being sexually harassed during the very beginning of her career

By Maria Pasquini
August 30, 2018 01:07 PM

Gretchen Carlson says she felt completely panicked after being sexually harassed during the very beginning of her career.

In PEOPLE’s exclusive first look at Carlson’s upcoming Breaking Big episode, the former Fox News anchor — who won a $20 million settlement against Fox News CEO and Chairman Roger Ailes over sexual harassment in 2016 — shared that after getting her first journalism position, “I unfortunately was sexually harassed on the job about a month later.”

“I was in a rural part of the state with my camera man. He started asking me about how much I had enjoyed it when he touched my breasts with the microphone,” she explained. “And it went downhill from there.”

Gretchen Carlson
Presley Ann/Patrick McMullan/Getty

Asked how she responded to the inappropriate behavior Carlson said that she just “panicked.”

“I was new in the business, I didn’t really know what I was doing, I’m with some guy I don’t know, and I actually envision rolling out of the car, wondering how much it would hurt if I do that because I was so panicked to try and get away,” she said.

She said things didn’t get any easier once she got back to the news station.

“When I got back to the station, I was just shaking,” she explained. “When women go through this, it’s a horrifying experience because your entire self-confidence just drains out of you.”

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Carlson’s parents shared that even though their daughter was “quite upset” by what happened to her, she was determined not to let the actions of one man get in the way of her budding career.

“That’s what you would call resilience,” her mother explained. “To keep coming back.”

Carlson’s lawsuit in 2016 accused Ailes of sexual harassment and retaliation.

Ailes was accused of firing Carlson from the network after he “sabotaged her career because she refused sexual advances and complained about severe and pervasive sexual harassment,” she alleged in her suit, according to papers obtained by PEOPLE.

Her coming forward led to Ailes’ resignation in July 2016, less than a year before his death at age 77 in May, and opened the door on the alleged mistreatment of other female employees at the network.

“This was really important for me to go back to my passion and what I worked 27 years for,” Carlson, who became the chairwoman of the Miss America pageant in January, previously told PEOPLE, “and I wanted to be a shining example for all the women who have not been able to go back to their careers.”

Carlson’s episode of Breaking Big airs Friday at 8:30 p.m. ET on PBS.