Roger Ailes, newly ousted as chairman of Fox News. (Screen shot via Fox News)

It all started with former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson, when her allegations of sexual harassment by Roger Ailes became public knowledge in early July. Since she came forward, 25 more women have made similar allegations against the Fox News founder.

“No one has ever violated me that way before or since,” said one woman in an anonymous interview. “It was a shock to me. I got out of there as fast as I could.”

Just days after these women began to share their stories, Ailes resigned as chairman of Fox News. Rupert Murdoch has since taken over his role, and Fox News is now scrambling to figure out how to proceed without Ailes, who essentially “created modern conservatism.”

In a press release, Murdoch praises Ailes without making mention of Carlson’s sexual harassment lawsuit and the other women’s allegations. “Roger shared my vision of a great and independent television organization and executed it brilliantly over 20 great years,” Murdoch writes. “I am personally committed to ensuring that Fox News remains a distinctive, powerful voice.”

Many critics, however, don’t believe Ailes’ resignation is a severe enough punishment for the number of allegations against him. Earlier this week, it was revealed that Ailes would receive a severance package of $40 million, although Fox News has since denied this. Additionally, he reportedly is going to stay on as an “adviser” to Fox News. “Some supporters of Carlson say Ailes is being rewarded for sexual harassment,” says Brian Stelter of CNN Money, adding that his exit agreement “includes legal language that forbids Ailes and the Murdochs from publicly criticizing each other.”

There is an important takeaway from these revelations, however. Pamela Kruger of Fortune writes:

Unlike the public trashing that other women have gotten when accusing powerful men in the past—think Anita Hill, called “nutty” and “slutty” in 1991 or the long line of Bill Cosby accusers who, until very recently, were dismissed as gold diggers—Carlson’s claims that Ailes ogled her and forced her out when she rebuffed him were taken seriously, listened to, and investigated.

There are probably a lot of factors at work. More women are in positions of power, and the younger generation of men in power just doesn’t hold those Mad Men-era attitudes. But it also seems as though women are reaping an unexpected benefit of social media. Although Twitter especially has enabled trolls to harass and threaten women, it’s also meant that a young woman’s letter calling out a judge and the Stanford student who sexually assaulted her can go viral and create a firestorm. More people are willing and able to speak out on social media to hold powerful men and institutions accountable. It’s no accident that after Carlson filed her suit, she immediately began tweeting with the hashtag #StandWithGretchen, and she’s been using her feed to speak out on how employers handle sexual harassment allegations.

Ailes’ departure is likely to affect conservative mainstream media, especially as the close presidential race continues into November. “Without Mr. Ailes guiding the network, conservatives and Republican politicians are left wondering whether the talk might soften under new leadership,” writes Nick Corasaniti of The New York Times. He notes, however, that other Fox News staples, such as Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity, draw in huge numbers for the network. “Whether the language begins to soften or change, most candidates know that they can rely on the network’s connection with Republican voters.”

—Posted by Emma Niles


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