Roger Ailes is one of the most powerful political figures in the country. He has been an adviser to Presidents and wields enormous influence as CEO of Fox News. In a scenario similar to Bill Cosby, many women have come forward to claim he has used his powerful positions to pressure them for sexual favors.
Sexual harassment concerning Ailes became a major news story with a lawsuit started by Gretchen Carlson who worked as an anchor for Fox News for many years. In the lawsuit, Ms. Carlson says that her contract was not renewed because she refused sexual advances made by Roger Ailes. In the wake of these revelations at least a dozen other women are reported to have made similar complaints of sexual harassment over a 50 year period. At least six of the women have been interviewed and two allowed their names to be used.
Ailes has used typical abuser strategies in an attempt to silence and discredit women who had the courage to come forward. He has sought to move the case to arbitration even though he is not a party to the contract that provides for arbitration. The purpose of this is to prevent any testimony from being made public. Well known women associates have gone public to say they were unaware of any inappropriate behavior. It is not surprising that he didn’t harass every attractive woman so this tells us little about the actual reports. Ailes and his attorney have also attacked the women and a reporter writing about the story.
As someone who works to prevent domestic violence, rape and child abuse, I am concerned about tactics that seek to take advantage of the popular myth that women frequently make false reports. The women who have reported Ailes’ offensive behavior are speaking about experiences that are painful, embarrassing and will inevitably damage their reputations and career prospects in our still sexist society. And they are placing themselves in physical danger. Accordingly the chances that all of these women are lying is remote.
Enormous harm is done to our society by those who believe or promote the myth that women frequently lie about men who abuse them. The use of this tactic is a strong indication that the reports are true since they are willing to use tactics that serve to increase the danger of domestic violence and sexual assault. I recently wrote an article (link below) that examined the harm of disbelieving women. I hope Roger Ailes and his allies will read the article and stop using these unethical tactics. And I hope the public will avoid being manipulated by these popular misconceptions.