The Fox News Regrets Edition
Two who spoke out in behalf of Roger Ailes express regret.
It’s a banner year for business ethics disasters. We have Corey Lewandowski’s hiring at CNN. I haven’t written about it yet because the saga continues to carve out new terrain in ethically challenged comments and decisions. It’s like the Greek Tragedy of Oedipus, you don’t want to write about it until he blinds himself and a lot of people die. I’m waiting for the unfolding disaster’s climax.
We have Wells Fargo’s decision to fire a bunch of low level employees for upper management decision making. After all, it’s the American way to pass the buck from those responsible to those that weren’t. If they wanted job security, the little people should refuse to perform the unethical acts upper management threatens to fire them for.
And then, of course, we have the major media companies giving Donald Trump several billion dollars of free air time because it was good for ratings. Perhaps some modern day William L. Shirer will rise to the journalistic challenge of documenting this business ethics disaster?
But high on the list has to be the lawsuits, the investigation and the firing of Roger Ailes.
The Business Ethics Debacle at Fox News
The revelations of immorality at Fox News are both shocking and seem to be never ending. If the charges are true we are talking about the misuse of funds, corporate espionage and sexual harassment of a particularly long term and degrading kind.
When Gretchen Carlson filed her lawsuit a few weeks ago, several of her fellows at Fox criticized her decision to sue. Among them were Geraldo Rivera and Greta Van Susteren.
Both now express regret.
Rivera published on Facebook a statement which includes the following –
The man we knew as the blustering genius who invented our mighty Fox News Channel is a deceitful, selfish misogynist, if the charges against him are true. And if they are true, then his shame and banishment are well earned.
Like virtually all my colleagues at Fox News, I was totally blindsided by his sexual harassment scandal, which is why I responded to Gretchen Carlson’s initial filing of her lawsuit with extreme skepticism. The man she described in her pleadings was unknown even to those of us who thought we knew him well.
And Susteren wrote on her Facebook page –
I read Geraldo’s FB post in which he said he regretted not believing Gretchen Carlson’s claim of sexual harassment.
We all regret it – I made my regret self evident in my GretaWire posting about 3 weeks ago which ended with this: “Gretchen, you go girl.” That said it all.
Both Rivera and Susteren were critical of Fox management in their Facebook posts although Rivera implied mistakes were made while Susteren directly said that mistakes were made.
Management’s role is to keep the playing field level, professional and fair. As society evolved from the “Mad Men” era of the 1950-60’s, giant steps have been taken to protect subordinate employees from harassment and unwelcome advances, particularly by superiors. Sure, there is far to go, but as the seismic response to Gretchen and the other purported victims makes clear, the news business will no longer tolerate boorish conduct by anyone, however powerful. Strict policies including sensitivity training are in place. Perpetrators do so at tremendous peril to their careers and families.
To all the victims of sexual harassment, direct and indirect, I am sorry for what happened to you. As the father of three daughters, including one in the news business, I urge all who have been offended to reach out. Similarly, if you see harassment, say harassment, even if the alleged offender is an old friend.
But I have regrets beyond Geraldo’s and beyond not believing a civil complaint written by lawyers.
I regret that Roger Ailes was not supervised by those in a public corporation who had the duty to supervise him. This included his seniors, the CFO’s of both Fox News Channel and 21CF (and its predecessor NewsCorp), the Board of Directors and what I assume this public corporation had, outside auditors. Checks written that were suspicious should have been spotted.
Is all this sincere? In these kinds of cases, I let time tell me what’s really going on. Usually in six months or a year, you have a pretty good idea who meant what. Of course, that is a belief based on long experience. Often what appears in the news is not what it seems in just a few days.
But if sincere, these Facebook posting suggest a dramatic decline in Ailes influence on his former colleagues.
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