The Ethics Alarms audit of the Bill O’Reilly canning by Fox (okay, technically it wasn’t a firing, but it was) continues…
9. One problem with the Left’s thinly veiled joy at getting O’Reilly is that it encourages the Right’s narrative that O’Reilly’s only crime was being conservative. Also not helping were President Trump’s interview statements about O’Reilly to the New York Times, in which he said in part,
“I think he’s a person I know well — he is a good person… I think he shouldn’t have settled; personally I think he shouldn’t have settled. Because you should have taken it all the way. I don’t think Bill did anything wrong.”
Stupid, stupid, stupid; irresponsible. Maybe two stupids and two irresponsibles. Do otherwise good people engage in sexual harassment? Of course: good people do bad things. But when a prominent individual says publicly that a sexual harasser is a good person, it sends a message that sexual harassment, like all abuse, doesn’t create a rebuttable presumption that someone is not a good person. Add to that Trump’s last statement, “I don’t think Bill did anything wrong,” and the toxic messaging is complete. Either that statement means that the President is, based on nothing, claiming that the allegations against O’Reilly are untrue, or worse, he is saying that there is nothing wrong with sexual harassment. Based on his infamous exchange with Bill Bush, there is good reason to believe that this is exactly what he means.
10. That interview, in turn, led inevitably to this fatuous and offensive article by conservative blogger Roger Simon. Sure, Roger, you dummy, O’Reilly did nothing wrong except support Donald Trump. Count the rationalizations in this piece of offal by one of the shimmering stars in the Pajama Media firmament of conservative thought-leaders.
The sad truth is the many conservatives—most?—really don’t think sexual harassment is a big deal. It is one of many ethics blind spots.
11. One conservative who lacks that blind spot—though she has lots of others—is Sarah Palin, who had this exchange yesterday with CNN’s Jake Tapper:
TAPPER: I have to ask you a question and it’s kind of sensitive, but you are in a unique role being a strong woman who worked at Fox News channel as a contributor. Uhm, and I normally don’t cover a lot of media stories, but obviously the upheaval going on there with the CEO and its biggest star ousted because of sexual harassment, not just an issue at Fox News channel, but an issue across the country. And it seems to be, with what happened with Bill O’Reilly, really a change in corporate culture in terms of what is tolerated. What do you make of it?
PALIN: Well I think the key there is, you said I used to be with Fox. I used to be with Fox. Corporate culture there obviously has to change, y’know, women don’t deserve, they should not ever have to put up with any kind of intimidating work space. At the same time if a women believes that she is being intimidated and harassed, she needs to stand up and do something about it and not stick around for a paycheck for years and years and years. And then after the fact complain about what she went through. As a strong woman, I say we should be feel more empowered than that. And we should take a stand and get out of the place, or blow the whistle on the whoever is the perpetrator doing the bad stuff so that the culture will change. So yeah, obviously things are changing quickly at Fox News. There are some great great people who are there, though. And I appreciate what Fox News does, as CNN, you know, adding to the discourse and to the debate, which is a healthy thing for the society. You know, more power to the good things that Fox News is doing. But yep, culture had to change there.
12. Guess what the Huffington Post gleaned from Palin’s statements? Palin was “victim-blaming,” because, as we all know, nothing Sarah Palin says can ever be correct. Bias makes you stupid: Palin’s comments about “staying for a paycheck” were exactly right. Women who are harassed should 1) protest, 2) report it, and 3) get out of the hostile work environment. Staying is conduct that allows harassment to continue. Palin was obviously sending a shot across the bows of the highly paid female Fox News personalities who allowed themselves to be presented to the TV audience as eye candy while accepting six and seven figure contracts that included tolerating Roger Ailes’ harassing conduct. Ethics Alarms discussed this and made the same point as Palin here:
Like millions of women harassed in the workplace, Carlson decided to accept a big salary or other consideration in exchange for putting up with illegal and misogynist treatment in a harassing corporate culture, because to take legal action would be detrimental to her career and future prospects of working in the broadcast news industry.
I understand and sympathize with Carlson’s dilemma, but like battered wives who refuse to testify against their batterers, Carlson and women like her perpetuate and feed the problem of workplace abuse of women. They accept the illegal and demeaning treatment (and allow other women who observe the harassment to believe that this is conduct that they are expected to tolerate, a process called third-party harassment) in exchange for money, stardom, fame or professional advancement, a deal with the devil that they should not have to make, but also should not make, no matter what the benefits….I agree with NPR ombudsman Alicia Shepard, who wrote in USA Today,
Carlson loses some of her effectiveness when it can be perceived — as Ailes claims — that the timing of her suit is retaliatory….Would Carlson have filed a bombshell lawsuit if Fox had renewed her contract? Would she have remained silent? She has talked about harassment at her network before, but in her memoir, “Getting Real”, she speaks highly of Ailes.
Carlson says in a statement that she has “strived to empower women and girls throughout my entire career. Although this was a difficult step to take, I had to stand up for myself and speak out for all women and the next generation of women in the workplace.” It is a brave thing to take on one of the most powerful men in the TV news industry. But a quiet settlement — as Fox News has done at least twice before on these lawsuits — is not a win for women except for the person filing the suit and her attorneys.
Carlson had a choice to quit and go public in her career at Fox News and potentially bring about change in the work environment. She didn’t.
Of course, the Huffington Post would never accuse NPR of victim blaming, but this was essentially what Palin said.
13. Asks Susan Wright on the conservative site Red State,
“So with Ailes, and now O’Reilly gone, can we expect the women of Fox News to begin dressing like journalists and not cocktail waitresses at a “gentlemen’s” club?”