The he-said-she-said of Carlson vs Fox News honcho Ailes

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NEW YORK — Gretchen Carlson, the former Fox News host who sued network honcho Roger Ailes in a New Jersey superior court after she was fired from her job last month, claims she was dismissed because she refused Ailes’ sexual advances.

But the married 76-year-old Ailes isn’t taking the accusation lying down — he responded by filing a motion of his own in federal court, describing the allegations as “outrageous” and claiming that Carlson in her contract signed a confidentiality agreement stipulating that such allegations would be dealt with by a three-member arbitration panel.

Ailes’s attorneys allege Carlson turned to the court system “so that her counsel could tar Mr. Ailes’s reputation publicly.” Carlson alleges the shots she’s taking at Ailes’s reputation are deserved, and offered up a direct quote in her lawsuit she claims was uttered by Ailes when she met with him individually to address her discrimination complaint:

“I think you and I should have had a sexual relationship a long time ago and then you’d be good and better and I’d be good and better…. sometimes problems are easier to solve that way.”

The bitter he-said-she-said saga between the former Miss America crownholder and the network boss is showing zero sign of cooling off, as a gaggle of Fox News employees are rushing both to the defense of Ailes, and in case of former female employees, to back up Carlson’s claims.

In an exclusive interview with Variety, Fox Business anchor Maria Bartiromo doubted Carlson’s claims.

“It’s just not in keeping with what I know, and my experience at Fox,” she said.

According to New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman, who authored a critical takedown of Ailes rife with unnamed sources which became a bestseller in 2014, more than a dozen women have contacted Carlson’s attorney, Nancy Erika Smith, to describe additional allegations of sexual harassment by Ailes.

One of the women, 54-year-old former Republican National Committee field advisor Kellie Boyle, spoke to Sherman and detailed her treatment by Ailes some twenty-five years ago.  Boyle, who never worked for Ailes, but who met the Fox News chief in 1989 through her husband and had dinner with him shortly thereafter, says she was denied a job at the Republican National Congressional Committee after refusing to engage sexually with Ailes.  Several other women claim Ailes asked them for sexual favors as a quid pro quo for employment opportunities when he was a producer for The Mike Douglas Show in the 1960s and 70s.

Through a spokesman Ailes has denied all of the additional allegations.

For her part, Carlson (or her media team) seems to be using the controversy to beef up sales of her 2015 Fox News memoir. A visit to the page for Carlson’s book, Getting Real, shows that someone has recently updated the entry in an attempt to capitalize on the saga:

“In the wake of Gretchen Carlson’s lawsuit against Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes, her memoir of her time at Fox—working alongside Megyn Kelly, Bill O’Reilly, Steve Doocy, and other prominent conservative news personalities—is more relevant than ever.”

It is entirely feasible, however, that Ailes’s attorneys will use Carlson’s tome as an exhibit in his defense. At no point in the book does Carlson accuse Ailes of the deeds and mistreatment she alleges in her lawsuit. To the contrary, Carlson expresses praise for her boss, describing him as the “most accessible” boss she’s ever worked for and claiming that she had a “real connection” with him.

What is still unclear is whether Ailes will settle with Carlson. All indications point to the contrary, however, as the Fox News boss’s filing in federal court makes it clear that his attorneys will challenge the legality of whether Carlson’s contract with the network will result in her complaint being dismissed.

“Federal, New York and New Jersey law all definitively hold that a plaintiff cannot avoid an agreed-to arbitration provision with her employer by just suing a corporate officer (such as Chairman and CEO Ailes) in court,” Ailes’s filing claims.

Read a copy of Carlson’s complaint:

Carlson Complaint

Read a copy of Ailes’s response:

Ailes Response