In Greenwich, Gretchen Carlson urges women to stand and fight
GREENWICH — Gretchen Carlson never envisioned leading the fight against sexual harassment. But her high-profile lawsuit against her former employers at Fox News Channel last year set off a chain reaction that has toppled some of the most powerful figures in cable television, each accused of being a serial harasser.
Speaking Tuesday before a Greenwich audience of hundreds, mostly women, Carlson urged them to speak out and fight — for themselves and other women.
“For anyone here today who is looking to be inspired, stand up and speak up because you’ve been put down in any aspect of your life,” Carlson said. “As women we will not be underestimated, intimidated or set back by misogynists who stereotype and demean us. We will not be silenced through the ways of the establishment or the relics of the past. We will stand up together and use our voices to be the women we were meant to be.”
Carlson was the keynote speaker for the 12th annual Sole Sisters Luncheon, a Greenwich United Way initiative. The luncheon is the agency’s biggest fundraiser of the year and helps support human service programs for Greenwich’s most vulnerable residents.
In her remarks, Carlson described overcoming early life challenges to become Miss America before starting a career in television that took her to national prominence as one of the hosts of Fox and Friends.
Her sexual harassment lawsuit last year against Fox News founder and CEO Roger Ailes changed the makeup of the powerful organization. Ailes was forced to resign, a precursor to events last week when Fox’s most visible host, Bill O’Reilly, was also forced out after multiple claims of sexual harassment dating back years were revealed.
Though she is legally prohibited under terms of a settlement with Fox to talk about her former employer, Carlson in a pre-luncheon interview noted the impact her suit has had.
“On July 6, 2016, I jumped off a cliff all by myself and I had no idea what was below me,” she said. “Life works in mysterious ways … I have been incredibly inspired by the thousands of women I have heard from from around the country who have shared their personal stories and their own struggles. In many cases they have said to me, ‘You were our voice because we were voiceless and through you we felt victorious.’ If I gave that encouragement to one person, it was worth it.”
Carlson told her audience at Greenwich Country Club that the stories she’d heard from other women were ones of pain, agony and shame, in which speaking up cost them the chance to work in their chosen fields.
“It turns out that even in 2017, unfortunately every woman still has a story,” Carlson said. “These are police officers, teachers, oil rig operators, Wall Street bankers, sports executives, Army officers, accountants, engineers, waitresses, lawyers, secretaries and journalists.”
A Greenwich resident, Carlson has been involved in many local organizations and non-profits.
“The Greenwich United Way helps women and children, which is so important to me,” she said. “I just set up my own fund to empower women and girls called Gift of Courage and I’m trying to support organizations that already exist in that mission. At the United Way, they’re seeing the same path and the need to allow people to rise up and empower people to all achieve the American dream. I’m a huge believer in the fact that we’re all capable of that. We just need support.”
Greenwich United Way CEO David Rabin compared the assistance the agency provides to “little miracles” and stressed the growing need for community support for local human service agencies.
“For better or for worse we have a chance to do a lot of little miracles in this town,” Rabin said.
Greenwich United Way Board Chairman Karen Keegan spoke about the Greenwich residents living below the poverty level and those earning below the cost of living standard, families and individuals ranging from seniors to children, who the agency serves.
“This is a very important day for Greenwich,” Keegan said. “It’s such an inspiring moment to have Gretchen Carlson come and address the growing number of women and men who really care about local needs in our community.”
The luncheon was organized by Jaime Eisenberg and Diane Viton, who talked about the evolutions of the Sole Sisters group within the Greenwich United Way.
“Twelve years ago a group of friends planed a United Way gala together and had so much fun and it was such a success that they decided to make it an annual event,” Vitron said. “Thus the Sole Sisters initiative was born. Since then over $1.5 million has been raised for the Greenwich United Way and it’s mission.”
Marking the legacy of the Sole Sisters, Jill Winer and Jan Marchand, were declared lifetime Sole Sisters for their contributions through the years.