Gretchen Carlson and Laurie Luhn appeared on ABC’s 20/20 on Friday night to talk frankly about their respective experiences being sexually assaulted by disgraced Fox News head and former Trump adviser Roger Ailes, a man as rapaciously predatory as he is malignantly repulsive. Both stories are hard to swallow under normal circumstances; framed in the context of Trump’s America, they become all but unbearable. It was Carlson’s first televised interview since the network settled with her for $20 million in September.
The former Fox anchor, poised in a green sweater in her Greenwich, Connecticut home across from Good Morning America’s Amy Robach, recounted the beginnings of what would eventually become a parade of instances of sexual assault: The high-powered PR exec (still a high-powered PR exec!), the local news photographer who made comments about her breasts while she was locked with him in a news van. Like many women, she decided to say nothing.
“I’d only been in this job for a couple months, and I didn’t want to make waves,” she said. She eventually told her news director, but only after he’d asked her what was wrong, repeatedly.
“When situations like that happen to women, you fear that it’s going to be your fault, you’re not going to be believed, you’re going to lose your job. You’re going to be that woman,” she said. She detects a knowing grimace flicker across Robach’s face, and asks whether she herself as been sexually harassed at work. Of course she had.
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“Why don’t we say anything?” Robach asked.
“I think that’s part of the battle for some women. They think if I just work a little bit harder, all this will go away,” Carlson said, adding that when women do finally come forward, they’re often accused of making it up.
Because of her settlement with Fox, Carlson couldn’t discuss the moment she finally decided to fell Roger Ailes, which is a shame. But she does emphasize the importance of collecting evidence when deciding to bring a suit against a harasser, encouraging women to document instances of abuse as they arise in order to build a strong case.
She also touched on Donald Trump’s outlandish suggestion that women who are harassed in the workplace should simply “find another job,” suggesting that’s as easy as retrieving a fork that fell on the floor.
“Really?” Carlson asked, wearing a pained smile that suggested anything but mirth. “Because I consider myself to be a pretty damn strong woman. And finding another job is not a realistic way to solve this problem.” Her eyes go dark as she says this, each venom-tinged word hanging heavily in the air.
“Women should not have to face this, in the workplace, period.”