We knew that Megyn Kelly, the star anchor at Fox News, has alleged that now-ousted Fox News chief Roger Ailes sexually harassed her about a decade ago, before she became a host. Those allegations were among many — prompted by former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson’s sexual harassment suit — that forced the ouster of Ailes from his post over the summer. As part of an inquiry by the New York law firm Paul, Weiss, Kelly came forward with her explosive story.
What we didn’t know were details. That’s changing, thanks to leaks from Kelly’s forthcoming book, “Settle For More,” whose official release date is Nov. 15.
Radar Online is reporting that Kelly wrote in the book that she received word from her managing editor that she’d “captured the attention of Mr. Ailes.” She was called in to meet with Ailes at Fox News’s Manhattan offices. Via Radar:
“Roger began pushing the limits,” she alleges. “There was a pattern to his behavior. I would be called into Roger’s office, he would shut the door, and over the next hour or two, he would engage in a kind of cat-and-mouse game with me — veering between obviously inappropriate sexually charged comments (e.g. about the ‘very sexy bras’ I must have and how he’d like to see me in them) and legitimate professional advice.”
The account overlaps with the stories of many women who have come forward to detail their awful experiences with Ailes, the 76-year-old TV whiz who founded Fox News and turned it into a ratings powerhouse. Kelly writes in her book that Ailes volunteered to promote her “in exchange for sexual favors,” a dubious trade-off that Kelly says she rejected at every turn. As one of the most unaccountable people in the news business, however, Ailes felt license to proceed.
Escalation took place in January 2006, according to Radar Online. Again from Radar Online:
. . . he “crossed a new line — trying to grab me repeatedly and kiss me on the lips.” When she shoved him away, she alleges, “he asked me an ominous question: ‘When is your contract up?’ And then, for the third time, he tried to kiss me.”
The harassment ended after six months, possibly because she reported him to a supervisor, Kelly writes. But when Carlson and the other women began to come forward this year, Kelly said she decided the time had come to speak up.
“Crossing him was a major risk,” she writes in the book, “but what if — God forbid — he was still doing it to someone?”
Susan Estrich, a lawyer who represents Ailes, issued this statement: “This is what Ms. Kelly had to say about Roger Ailes only one year ago on the Charlie Rose program, ‘I really care about Roger. And he has been nothing but good to me. And he’s been very loyal. And he’s had my back. And he’s looked out for me.’ Mr. Ailes denies her allegations of sexual harassment or misconduct of any kind.”
The truth is that both scenarios could well be viable — that Ailes could have sexually harassed Kelly and then promoted her. Our world, after all, is twisted.
As conveyed by Radar Online, the story is lacking in at least one particular: Who is this “supervisor” to whom Kelly addressed her sexual harassment complaint? Is that person still employed at Fox News? Did that person suppress the complaint, or just pass it along?
Questions of that nature may never be adequately addressed, in part because of Fox News itself. After the Carlson suit hit, 21st Century Fox engaged Paul, Weiss to look at the allegations. Though many folks — including this blog — short-handed the firm’s mission as an “investigation,” its purpose was not to promulgate a “wholesale overhaul of Fox News’s culture,” as Vanity Fair put it, but simply to give the company legal advice as it figured out how to handle the Ailes situation and a transition to new leadership.
The upshot? Ailes is gone, though employees and executives who may have assisted him or put on blinders could well have escaped consequence.
Though the harassment sequence outlined by Kelly is outrageous, so is the pressure that fell on Kelly over the summer as the allegations against Ailes mounted. A campaign among Fox Newsers to stick up for Ailes knocked on Kelly’s door. “I was approached several times, and several times I refused,” she writes in the book, according to Radar Online. “There was no way I was going to lie to protect him.”