Paul Janensch: “Animal House” image still haunts Fox
Fox News was an “Animal House” when Roger Ailes ran it.
Is it still? The current leadership says no. But the image of naughty guys at play continues to haunt the cable behemoth.
In the past six weeks, claims of sexual harassment have led to the firing of another Fox executive and the suspension of two more Fox hosts.
The accusations against the two hosts go back to the Ailes years. The accusations against the executive go back to the recent past.
In 2015 and 2016, we read and heard many news stories about allegations of rampant sexual harassment at Fox under Ailes, who co-founded the channel with media baron Rupert Murdoch.
The stories reminded me of the 1978 movie “Animal House,” starring the late John Belushi as John “Bluto” Blutarsky, a goof-off in his seventh year of college.
One of the movie’s themes — supposedly amusing — was the way members of a grungy fraternity treated women. Not gallantly.
The public airing of what was going on Fox began when anchor Gretchen Carlson filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Ailes.
Then other women accused Ailes of making unwanted advances.
Then a law firm was brought in to investigate the workplace culture at Fox and found it was boorish.
Then Ailes was dumped with a handsome severance.
Then Murdoch took over, working with his sons, Lachlan and James. The brothers are in charge of 21st Century Fox, for which Fox News is a big money maker.
Then star host Megyn Kelly left Fox for NBC after alleging that she, too, had been harassed by Ailes.
Then The New York Times revealed that five women received $13 million to settle complaints of inappropriate behavior by superstar host Bill O’Reilly.
Then O’Reilly was dumped. Both he and Ailes (who died in May) denied any wrongdoing.
Then Fox co-president Bill Shine was dumped for failing to stop sexual harassment.
Training programs were started. Women employees were encouraged to report instances of sexual harassment.
A new era had begun. But the old era won’t go away.
On August 5, Fox host Eric Bolling was suspended pending an investigation of accusations that several years ago he sent a photo of a male’s private parts to female colleagues.
On Wedneday, Bolling initiated a $50 million defamation lawsuit against writer Yashar Ali, whose reporting for HuffPost prompted the investigation.
In July, Fox Business host Charles Payne was suspended after being accused of sexual harassment by a woman who had been a frequent guest on his program.
She said that, after ending an affair with him in 2015, her appearances on Fox were drastically reduced.
Payne’s attorney said Payne “categorically denies” any sexual harassment of the woman.
Jamie Horowitz, the head of programming at Fox Sports, apparently did not get the memo about a new era.
He was fired in July after several women employees complained about sexual harassment by him and other men at the Los Angeles-based operation. His lawyer denied the allegations.
I don’t want to forget about up-and-coming Fox host Jesse Watters.
In April he made a questionable remark on “The Five” about President Trump’s daughter Ivanka.
Watters said that when she addressed an audience in Berlin, “I really liked how she spoke into that microphone.”
After he was lambasted on social media, Watters said his comment was completely innocent.
Bluto Blutarsky would have guffawed.
Paul Janensch, of Bridgeport, was a newspaper editor and taught journalism at Quinnipiac University. His weekly “Memo on the Meida” can be heard at wqun.com. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.