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Why Roger Ailes’s Departure from Fox News Is No Win for Sexual Harassment Victims

Media Reports Say Roger Ailes Negotiating Departure Terms At Fox NewsMedia Reports Say Roger Ailes Negotiating Departure Terms At Fox News
Fox News chairman Roger Ailes walks with his wife Elizabeth Tilson. Photograph by Drew Angerer — Getty Images

It’s official: Fox News has dumped Roger Ailes, who ruled the network for 20 years.

The decision comes two weeks after former Fox anchor Gretchen Carlson filed a sexual harassment case against Ailes—a move that prompted more than 20 women to come forward to say that they had also been harassed by the CEO, according to Carlson’s lawyers.

I can’t help but feel torn by this news. On one hand, I see the perspective of Fortune‘s Pamela Kruger, who writes that the fact that Carlson’s claims were taken seriously and investigated suggests that we’re experiencing a sea change in how companies respond to claims of sexual harassment. I hope that’s true.

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But many of the details of Ailes’s ouster leave a bitter taste in my mouth. In a statement announcing the CEO’s resignation, (FOX) 21st Century Fox chairman Rupert Murdoch had nothing but praise for Ailes—there was no mention of the harassment suit. (Murdoch’s sons, Lachlan and James, got a little closer, noting their “commitment to maintaining a work environment based on trust and respect.”) Meanwhile, in a letter to Murdoch, Ailes had the gall to write that he takes “particular pride in the role that I have played advancing the careers of the many women I have promoted to executive and on-air positions.” Finally, there’s the deal: Ailes walks with $40 million and a consulting gig.

 

Taking down a man as powerful as Ailes is no small feat. But if the punishment for sexually harassing more than 20 women is a public pat on that back and more money than most of us will see in our lifetimes, I cannot count it as progress.