A week ago, former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson filed a civil action against Fox News chief Roger Ailes, claiming that she lost all manner of opportunities and pay after she complained about sexual harassment at the network. The 11-year Fox News veteran, whose run ended in late June, claimed that Ailes objectified her, propositioned her and once asked her to turn around so that he could check out her “posterior.”
In an appearance on Seth Meyers’ “Late Night” show, Fox News eminence Bill O’Reilly called it all “a very sad situation.”
Don’t get him wrong, though: He wasn’t saddened by the possibility that a former colleague of his was mistreated; or that the allegations in the suit may well be true; or that a woman’s chances of catching on at another television network might be diminished. He was saddened by the misfortune of the true victim here: “I’ve worked for Roger Ailes for 20 years. Best boss I’ve ever had. Straight shooter. Always honest with me. And I believe that over the years — he’s been in the business for 50 years — 95 percent of the people who have worked for Roger Ailes would say exactly the same thing I just told you,” said O’Reilly, leaving unanswered just what that other 5 percent might say. “In this country, every famous, powerful or wealthy person is a target. You’re a target,” he said to Meyers. “I’m a target. Anytime somebody could come out and sue us, attack us, go to the press or anything like that. Until America — and that’s a deplorable situation….adopts the English system of civil law whereby if you file a frivolous lawsuit and you lose, the judge has a right to make you pay all court costs. Until we adopt that very fair proposition, we’re going to have this out-of-control tabloid society that is tremendously destructive. I stand behind Roger 100 percent.”
The clear suggestion here from O’Reilly: Gretchen Carlson filed a frivolous lawsuit. And poor Roger Ailes — the millionaire who has to endure in a society governed by the Bill of Rights.
In their chat, Meyers appreciated O’Reilly answering the question, which the show cleared with him in advance. (“We asked if that was all right to ask you about it,” said Meyers.) Truth is, O’Reilly was in all likelihood itching to issue his statement in support of Ailes, given his dependence on the 76-year-old television news genius. It was just last year that O’Reilly’s own career appeared in doubt, as outlets like Mother Jones (disclosure: the wife of the Erik Wemple Blog works there as a staff writer) and Media Matters, among others, documented how O’Reilly had either embellished or told falsehoods or outright lied about various reporting exploits from his extensive career in journalism. The King of Cable News, it turned out, had a knack for placing himself closer to the action than his peers and colleagues recollected. The discrepancies were substantive, serial and damaging.
Not within Fox News, however. Whereas other network bosses might have fired up an internal investigation and declared that we take these allegations seriously, Ailes plied a different course. “Fox News Chairman & CEO Roger Ailes and all senior management are in full support of Bill O’Reilly,” asserted a statement from the network. Behind such defiance — not to mention angry and absurd denials by O’Reilly himself — the network waited out the siege. Media reporters eventually moved on to other topics. O’Reilly stayed in his seat, thanks to Ailes.
Now, on late-night television, he returns the favor. This is loyalty, Fox News style.