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As Fox News is reeling from the release of a staggering report revealing numerous sexual harassment lawsuits filed against its star, Bill O’Reilly, two advertisers have pulled ad placements during “The O’Reilly Factor.” Meanwhile, women continue to come forward with claims of a misogynistic culture at the company.
Julie Roginsky, a Democratic political consultant and Fox News contributor, filed a lawsuit in New York state court on Monday against the network; its former chairman, Roger Ailes; and Bill Shine, the network’s co-president. Roginsky accuses them of denying her a permanent hosting job after she refused Ailes’ sexual advances.
“During these meetings, Ailes additionally (and without irony) volunteered the advice that Roginsky should engage in sexual relationships with ‘older, married, conservative men’ because ‘they may stray but they always come back because they’re loyal,’” the claim states.
“Ailes also remarked that he was loyal but that loyalty was a two-way street. These comments and their delivery made it clear that Ailes wanted a sexual relationship with Roginsky.”
Roginsky also claimed in filings that at her meetings with Ailes, he “usually sat in a low armchair.”
“He repeatedly insisted on a kiss ‘hello’ requiring Roginsky to bend down to kiss him. Ailes would consistently position himself in such a way as to look down Roginsky’s dress.”
There are at least two separate lawsuits, against Fox News and Ailes, by women claiming they were sexually harassed. Last year, on behalf of Ailes, Fox News agreed to pay $20 million to settle a harassment suit by former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson. He denied any wrongdoing but resigned in July.
Also in 2016, former Fox News anchor Andrea Tantaros filed a separate sexual harassment lawsuit that was sent to private arbitration.
“Bill, you’re my boss!” a former Fox News producer said in a lawsuit she told Bill O’Reilly when he propositioned her for sex.
Roginsky, 43, claims in the lawsuit that Ailes, 76, in early 2015 told her he was considering her for a full-time slot on highly rated talk show “The Five.” But after she declined his advances, the job never materialized and she lost her spot as a contributor on the show, she said.
She also sued Shine, Fox News co-president, asserting that he failed to investigate her claims. Roginsky also said in her lawsuit that a misogynistic culture at Fox had not changed since Ailes resigned last year.
“They need to sweep that place out with a shovel,” Jeff Sonnenfeld, senior associate dean for executive programs at the Yale School of Management, said in an interview.
Sonnenfeld thinks that amid the continued revelations, 21st Century Fox should consider more changes to the executive team that worked with Ailes.
Roginsky, who has appeared on Fox News programs since 2011 and writes a column for the network’s website, is seeking unspecified damages under a New York City law that prohibits discrimination, harassment and retaliation.
According to CNN, more women employees at Fox want to speak out against Ailes but do not come forward in fear of losing their jobs.
Susan Estrich, a lawyer for Ailes, refuted Roginsky’s sexual harassment claims, calling them “total hogwash.”
“This is about someone who wants to pile-on in a massive character assassination in order to achieve what she did not accomplish on the merits,” Estrich said in a statement.
Then it would be “a massive character assassination” taking place for more than a decade. That’s how long women employees at Fox have claimed that Ailes and O’Reilly have sexually harassed them, according to reports from The New York Times this past weekend.
In addition to the millions paid in support of Ailes, Fox, its parent company 21st Century Fox and O’Reilly have paid approximately $13 million in five settlements. There is an ongoing federal investigation centered on whether 21st Century Fox misled investors by hiding payments to Ailes’ and O’Reilly’s accusers.
But the more than $30 million paid out is just a portion of the nearly half a billion dollars in advertising revenues between 2014 and 2016 that O’Reilly created for the news channel during “The O’Reilly Factor.”
The network will no longer be receiving an estimated $1.9 million in ads from Mercedes-Benz during O’Reilly’s timeslot.
“The allegations are disturbing and, given the importance of women in every aspect of our business, we don’t feel this is a good environment in which to advertise our products right now,” Donna Boland, the manager of corporate communications at Mercedes-Benz, said in a statement.
The company’s ads during O’Reilly’s program “[have] been reassigned in the midst of this controversy.”
Hyundai said it would reallocate upcoming ads due to “the recent and disturbing allegations.”
“We had upcoming advertising spots on the show, but are reallocating them,” Hyundai said in an emailed statement to The Times.
“As a company, we seek to partner with companies and programming that share our values of inclusion and diversity,” the statement said. “We will continue to monitor and evaluate the situation as we plan future advertising decisions.”
Will other companies follow their lead?