Megyn Kelly responds to O’Reilly: I didn’t make Fox News look bad, Roger Ailes did
A follow-up to yesterday’s post about Fox News draaaaaaama. I thought O’Reilly would let what he said about Kelly on CBS lie, but no, he came back to the topic on his own show last night — at the very end of the program, just seconds before the network cut to the start of Kelly’s show. This is what “Factor” viewers heard right before “The Kelly File” began:
“If somebody is paying you a wage, you owe that person or company allegiance. You don’t like what’s happening in the workplace, go to human resources or leave. I’ve done that. And then take the action you need to take afterward if you feel aggrieved. There are labor laws in this country. But don’t run down the concern that supports you by trying to undermine it.”
Kelly should have reported Ailes to someone in the company the first time he harassed her. Except … she did report him, she claims, and got nowhere:
Kelly said she both called a lawyer and reported the behavior to her supervisor, who responded by vouching for Ailes’ character and recommending Kelly avoid him.
On her supervisor’s advice, she “avoided Roger for six months … And sure enough, he stopped,” Kelly said.
Kelly said that after those six months, Ailes and her went on “to have nine years of a healthy working relationship.”
For all of O’Reilly’s lecturing about loyalty to the company, the company didn’t show much loyalty to her when her supervisor blew off her complaint. She could have left, true, but there’d be no guarantee of another job in the industry for a fledgling reporter, especially if she told people what happened with Ailes. She might have been blackballed by friends of his at other networks or they might have dismissed her as a “troublemaker” who’s not worth the bother of hiring. (Kelly uses that word herself in the clip below to describe how women who speak up about sexual harassment are seen.) Her career would be over and Ailes would likely get off scot free, in which case leaving would have accomplished … what? Besides, to hear her tell it, Ailes did finally get the message and begin to behave better after she avoided him for awhile. So if the problem had been resolved, sort of, if HR was unwilling to do anything about it, and if complaining publicly was likely to be a career-ender, what would O’Reilly have had her do?
He’d have her keep her mouth shut for all time, I guess, lest the dirty laundry embarrass the network. Erik Wemple replies:
* O’Reilly, your network already looks bad. A full-on sexual harassment crisis swept through its halls this past summer. More than a dozen women who’d allegedly been harassed or demeaned by Ailes came forward to tell their stories. Nothing that Kelly puts in her book will exacerbate that set of facts.
* This very mentality enabled Ailes for decades. The message from O’Reilly here is this: Shut the heck up, colleagues. Don’t discuss in public unsavory matters that could lead to internal reform. Suppress dissent. Over his two decades atop Fox News, Ailes enforced just those rules, keeping allegedly harassed women and their colleagues from going public. Though Ailes is gone from Fox News, O’Reilly is working as his party apparatchik. A loyal soldier to the end.
Right. You can criticize Kelly for trying to make a buck off of the Ailes dirt by saving it for her book, but (a) the Ailes chapter was apparently a late addition to a book that was already in the works when the Gretchen Carlson news broke this summer, and would have been an odd omission under the circumstances if she had left it out, and (b) she claims that the Murdochs personally approved of including the material, which is a smart business move for exactly the reason Wemple lays out. If your company’s been given a black eye by what its culture of secrecy enabled, heal it by lifting the veil of secrecy. The fact that Fox News’s owners are backing Kelly up in talking about it is a sign to the public that they won’t tolerate this behavior going forward. Sunshine, as they say, is the best disinfectant.
More than anything, though, Kelly may feel a duty to talk now because her previous silence contributed to the culture that allegedly allowed Carlson and others to be harassed. She talks about that near the end here. (Start at 5:30 for the full exchange about Fox.) If you want women to complain when they’re being pawed at by the boss, give them a reason to think they’ll be believed. Kelly’s doing what she can now by admitting that it’s happened to her. Beyond that, there must have been a lot of Ailes loyalists staring daggers at her in the hallways this past summer and fall after news leaked that she’d told the in-house investigators that Ailes had harassed her. Their boss was out, thanks to the disloyal star he had created. Kelly must have wanted to explain publicly, in detail, what had happened between her and Ailes to try to convince the skeptics in the building that she wasn’t making it up.
Exit question: If young no-name Megyn Kelly had quit Fox News and accused Ailes publicly of harassing her, exactly as O’Reilly suggested last night, would O’Reilly have taken that accusation seriously?