Carlson says nation shifting on harassment issue
NEW YORK (AP) — Between the continued fallout from the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment case and the mushrooming “me too” social media campaign, Gretchen Carlson’s book on fighting back against abusive behavior couldn’t be timed any better.
Out Tuesday, the one-time Fox News Channel personality’s book “Be Fierce” compiles many harassment stories she’s collected since her lawsuit last year that led to the ouster of former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes. Now the Weinstein story has struck a chord, and Carlson said she’s proud that she may have contributed to women being more willing to tell their stories.
Carlson said that the nation may be in the midst of a profound cultural shift on the issue.
“What was so important about the Weinstein story is that women finally put their names and faces to the issue,” she told The Associated Press. “It wasn’t just anonymous women. It really brought the story to life quickly. If I had anything to do with that, then all the hard work I’ve been doing over the last 15 months on this issue has been so worth it.”
Actress Alyssa Milano urged women over the weekend to announce “me too” on social media if they’d been abused and thousands responded, many telling their stories.
“While it’s horrific how many women have stories, it’s a cathartic moment in time,” Carlson said on Monday.
For years women have been discouraged from telling of abuse, fearing they’d lose their jobs or be labeled troublemakers, she said. Even when they pursue cases, they often must choose between an arbitration process that is kept confidential or accepting a settlement that compels them to keep quiet about their abuse. She said that often leaves them defenseless, such as when fired Fox News personality Bill O’Reilly made television appearances where he declared his innocence of the harassment charges that led to his firing and said he should have gone after his critics harder. Carlson, whose book tour does not include a stop at Fox News, called O’Reilly’s appearance on his old network “horrifying.”
Carlson signed a settlement with Fox that limits what she can say about the company, but she had already outlined her accusations against Ailes in legal papers. Ailes, before he died earlier this year, consistently denied wrongdoing.
The number of people who wrote to her to tell their own stories compelled her to write “Be Fierce.” Several women told of careers being permanently derailed when they fought back against abuse. Carlson contacted many of them and did her own reporting, and also tells of other non-Fox abusive incidents that affected her personally.
“From waitresses to accountants to lawyers to bankers to teachers to journalists, it’s everywhere,” she said. “That’s why I believe the Weinstein story is so important, because this is not just about Hollywood or journalism. This is about every business and every profession.”
Carlson’s book delivers pep talks to women afraid to rock the boat, as well as specific legal strategies. Bullying and non-sexual forms of intimidation are also addressed and there’s a chapter for men who stand up for women in their lives and workplace.
She’s set up a foundation to help women fighting back against abusers. After being questioned about whether her strategies are practical for poor women or single moms, Carlson will run a three-day leadership foundation in nine cities for women to attend for free. She’ll speak at several colleges about the prevalence of sexual assaults on campus.
And sometime next year, she’ll return to television. She said she’s working with a Hollywood producer on a TV series that discusses the nation’s divisiveness, offering few other details. People have encouraged her to get into politics, and the Connecticut resident isn’t ruling it out.
“I had to do what I did so that my children and your children wouldn’t face the same indignities,” she said.