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‘He started asking me how I had liked it when he touched my breasts’: Gretchen Carlson says harassment began before Roger Ailes

Former Fox News Anchor, Gretchen Carlson, describes a time early in her career where she experience sexual harassment. (Video: Washington Post Live)
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Former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson said on Monday that she views recent sexual harassment allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein as a sign that women feel increasingly emboldened to speak out about abusive behavior by powerful men.

“I’m incredibly optimistic with where we are, 15 months after I jumped off the cliff and into the abyss, not knowing what would lay below it all,” Carlson said during an event at The Washington Post, referring to a lawsuit she filed last year against Roger Ailes, Fox News's then-chairman. “And, as horrific as the revelations are, coming out of Hollywood, I’m optimistic that this is the tipping point, that this is the watershed moment that we’ve been waiting for. Women have been waiting for this for a long time.”

Carlson noted, however, that sexual harassers are not always in positions of power. She shared an experience from early in her journalism career.

“I was with my cameraman in a rural part of Virginia, and we were covering a story, and when we got back into the car together, he started asking me how I had liked it when he touched my breasts when he was putting my microphone on,” Carlson said. “And it went downhill from there. … I literally thought to myself about rolling outside of the passenger door at 40 miles an hour, like I’d seen people do in the movies, and wondered how much it would hurt.”

Carlson said she eventually told her boss about the harassment but only after he sensed that something was wrong and asked repeatedly.

If we imagine that only heavyweights such as Weinstein or Ailes could get away with workplace misconduct, then we are underestimating the problem.

Carlson also described what she did last fall, when The Washington Post published a 2005 recording on which President Trump could be heard bragging about groping women. She had recently settled her lawsuit against Ailes for $20 million.

“I think that that was a teachable moment for millions of parents across the country,” Carlson said. “And that’s what I did. I showed that video [to my kids]. And I said, 'This is not how you treat a human being.' And I don’t care what political policies you agree with: taxes, immigration. Who cares? Sexual harassment is apolitical. When somebody harasses you, they don’t ask you what political party you’re in before they do it, and this is why we should all care. And this is why human decency supersedes any political policy.”

In a follow-up question about Trump, Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker referred to the president as a “father figure of the country,” Carlson interjected.

“Or the mother figure, eventually,” she said. “I firmly believe we will have a female president.”