Fox News Host Says Roger Ailes Offered Her a Promotion for a Sexual Relationship
Julie Roginsky filed a lawsuit earlier today that alleges the Fox News founder sexually harassed her in 2015.
Last year, Roger Ailes, the founder of Fox News and then-chairman of the network, was forced to resign from his company following allegations that he sexually harassed over ten female employees. Former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson, who claimed Ailes sabotaged her career after she refused his sexual advances and filed sexual harassment complaints, ended up settling her lawsuit against the news outlet for $20 million dollars. And just this month, a former contributor, Tamara Holder, reached a settlement for her sexual assault accusations against another executive at the company. It seems, however, that that wasn't the extent of Fox's sexist company culture.
Earlier today, Fox News contributor Julie Roginsky came forward with a new accusation of sexual assault against Ailes. Her lawsuit also names Bill Shine, the co-president of Fox News Network, and alleges Shine retaliated against her when she complained about Ailes.
Similar to previous accusations, Roginsky alleges that Ailes offered her a promotion—a regular spot hosting a Fox program called The Five—in exchange for a "sexual relationship." She claims that when she refused, the company retaliated against her by refusing to promote her, even though she was well-qualified.
Additionally, the suit alleges, Fox took action against her when she refused, in 2016, to "malign Gretchen Carlson and join 'Team Roger' when Carlson sued Ailes for sexual harassment."
According to the lawsuit, Ailes gained an interest in Roginsky when she was called in at the last minute one day to replace a regular host on The Five in 2015. The suit alleges that after he saw her performance, Ailes would call Roginsky into his office for one-on-one meetings because he "really liked her" on the show.
"During these meetings," the lawsuit states, "Ailes would frequently steer the conversation to Roginsky's personal life by asking, among other things, if she was dating anyone, why she was not married, what she was looking for in a man, and remarking that he did not understand why she was still single since she was so attractive."
Allegedly, during these meetings, Ailes would also tell Roginsky—"without irony," the suit notes—that she should "engage in sexual relationships with 'older, married, conservative men' because 'they may stray, but they always come back because they're loyal.'" He would also make sexist comments about the women who host The Five. ("For example, Ailes stated that Kimberly Guilfoyle would 'get on her knees for anyone,'" the lawsuit states.)
When Roginsky came to see him in his office, Ailes would insist on being greeted with a kiss—the lawsuit alleges that the Fox News founder always sat in a low armchair and Roginsky had to bend down to achieve this. "Ailes would consistently position himself in such a way as to look down Roginsky's dress," the suit states.
This behavior culminated with Ailes telling Roginsky in a meeting that he would "really like to give her a permanent spot on The Five" and adding that he would like to take her out for a drink, but that doing so would get them both "into so much trouble." Instead, he suggested, according to the suit, "we could just do it privately in my office instead, so no one would know." Roginsky declined, and Ailes "immediately and curtly" dismissed her, the suit alleges.
It was clear that Ailes had sexual intentions toward Roginsky given the history of his conduct toward Roginsky...
"It was clear that Ailes had sexual intentions toward Roginsky given the history of his conduct toward Roginsky and the fact that there was no reason why Roginsky and Ailes would have gotten 'into trouble' if they had simply conducted a professional meeting over drinks," the lawsuit states. After Roginsky declined the offer for private drinks, Ailes refused to meet with her ever again; the lawsuit claims that her spot on The Five was instead given to Geraldo Rivera.
The suit claims that Roginsky did not want to lose the job that she still had, and was additionally not made aware of any mechanisms to report what had happened to her at the time. It was only after Carlson filed a sexual harassment complaint against Ailes—and upper management made attempts to rally staff in support of Ailes and against Carlson—that she finally she spoke out. But her allegations were brushed off and she was further retaliated against, the lawsuit states.
"Shine and other senior executives at Fox News should have conducted independent investigations of Ailes' conduct and taken steps to protect women like Roginsky from his predatory and harassing practices," the lawsuit claims. "Instead, Shine and other senior executives kept Ailes' conduct secret and enabled it."
The timing of Roginsky's lawsuit happens to coincide with a number of allegations against another Fox pillar, Bill O'Reilly. The New York Times reports that a lawyer for Ailes, Susan Estrich, said in a statement that the former chairman "vociferously denies her allegations." "Her interactions with Mr. Ailes were not even close to the fictional version she wants people to believe now," Estrich told the publication.
Estrich has steadfastly defended Ailes' from accusations of sexual assault, including when Megyn Kelly wrote about Ailes' behavior in her memoir. Still, it's hard to deny that Roginsky's account doesn't fit the pattern of the apparent disregard for women at Fox News.