Fox News host Gretchen Carlson may be the highest-profile woman to accuse Roger Ailes of sexual harassment, but she is not the first. In my 2014 biography of the Fox News chief, I included interviews with four women who told me Ailes had used his position of power to make either unwanted sexual advances or inappropriate sexual comments in the office.
And it appears Carlson won’t be the last, either. In recent days, more than a dozen women have contacted Carlson’s New Jersey–based attorney, Nancy Erika Smith, and made detailed allegations of sexual harassment by Ailes over a 25-year period, dating back to the 1960s, when he was a producer on The Mike Douglas Show. “These are women who have never told these stories until now,” Smith told me. “Some are in a lot of pain.” Taken together, these stories portray Ailes as a boss who spoke openly of expecting women to perform sexual favors in exchange for job opportunities. “He said that’s how all these men in media and politics work — everyone’s got their friend,” recalled Kellie Boyle, who says Ailes propositioned her in 1989, shortly after he helped George H.W. Bush become president by serving as his chief media strategist.
Six of the women agreed to speak with New York publicly for the first time. Two spoke on the record; the others requested anonymity for reasons that include shame and fear of retribution. “I didn’t tell my husband, it was so mortifying,” said Marsha Callahan, a former model who says Ailes harassed her in the late ’60s, shortly before he would become Richard Nixon’s media adviser.
Ailes is clearly trying to keep these stories out of the press and the courts. Late on Friday, his lawyers filed a motion in federal court in New Jersey seeking to move Carlson’s lawsuit to arbitration, which would prevent witnesses from being called in court. “Plaintiff’s ploy of filing in Superior Court to justify her shameless publicity campaign against Roger Ailes should not be countenanced,” Ailes’s lawyers argued. Carlson’s lawyers responded in a statement: “Roger Ailes is trying to force this case into a secret arbitration proceeding … Gretchen never agreed to arbitrate anything with Mr. Ailes.”
Ailes’s spokesperson Irena Briganti did not respond to requests for comment. (Update: Ailes’s outside council, Barry Asen, has now responded to the new allegations. His statement can be found at the bottom of this post.)
Here are the women’s accounts:
Kellie Boyle, 54
Former Republican National Committee field adviser
This was back in 1989. I was 29 and living in New Jersey. My husband worked at CNBC and he said, “Roger Ailes is coming in to be interviewed — would you like to meet him?” I said yes! I’d worked in political communications for the Republican National Committee, so Roger Ailes was like a god. I’d read his book, You Are the Message, and I used it for a lot of training I did for candidates. I introduced myself in the green room, and he was very charming and said, “Would you like to visit my office downtown sometime?”
A week or two later I went in and mentioned to him I was going down to D.C. the following week to sign a major contract with the National Republican Congressional Committee. He said, “I’m going to be in D.C. too. Would you like to have dinner before you go in?” So we had a nice dinner at a restaurant in Union Station. There was nothing untoward about it at all. He had a driver and a car, and after dinner he said, “Can I take you to your friend’s?” So we get in the car and that’s when he said, “You know if you want to play with the big boys, you have to lay with the big boys.” I was so taken aback. I said, “Gosh, I didn’t know that. How would that work?” I was trying to kill time because I didn’t know if he was going to attack me. I was just talking until I could get out of the car. He said, “That’s the way it works,” and he started naming other women he’d had. He said that’s how all these men in media and politics work — everyone’s got their friend. I said, “Would I have to be friends with anybody else?” And he said, “Well, you might have to give a blow job every once in a while.” I told him I was going to have to think about this. He said, “No, if you don’t do it now, you know that means you won’t.”
The next morning I show up to get my assignment and was told the guy I was supposed to be meeting with was unavailable. Back in New Jersey, I got a call from Roger Ailes. He said, “How’d your meeting go?” I said, “Actually, he wasn’t available and I’m hoping to hear back from him.” He said, “Ah, well, I’m sure you will. Have you changed your mind yet?” I said, “I’ll have to pass, Roger. I’m married and really committed to my husband. No offense.” He said, “Well, we’ll be in touch.” And that was that. A couple weeks later, I called a friend who was very high up in the RNC and I asked him what happened. He said, “Word went out you weren’t to be hired.”
Marsha Callahan, 73
This was either ’68 or ’67. At the time he was producing The Mike Douglas Show, and I had a call from my modeling agency about the show. I got a call directly from Roger asking me to come down and to make sure I wore a garter belt and stockings. This was right after pantyhose came into use, and I said, “Why would you want me to do that instead of pantyhose?” He said, “If your legs look good in a garter belt, I’ll know you have great legs.” So I go into his office and right away he says, “Sit on the sofa and lift your skirt up.” I had to do these different poses. And then, I recall very clearly, he said he’d put me on the show but I needed to go to bed with him. I was a really shy girl, but I was a little cheeky, so I said, “Oh yeah, you and who else?” And he said, “Only me and a few of my select friends.” I said, “Well, if you think I have star quality and you can make money off my looks, I don’t think it’d matter if I went to bed with you or not.” And he said, “Oh, pretty girls like you are a dime a dozen.” The interview ended quickly. I was called in to do the show and I remember passing Roger in the hallway. He pretended not to know who I was.
I was 16 years old, living in Radnor, Pennsylvania. I was sent over for a walk-on part on The Mike Douglas Show in the winter of 1967. It was 6:30 in the evening and the place was totally closing up. Ailes took me into this big office and locked the door with a key. He reclined on a couch in a seating area under a map that had flags of all the cities they were syndicated in. He proceeded to pull down his pants and very gingerly pull out his genitals and said, “Kiss them.” And they were red, like raw hamburger. He was pretty meticulously dressed, with long white shirttails coming out. It was like he was just at the end of a long day and I was supposed to know what to do. I was a kid — I’d never seen a man’s privates before. I jumped up, but the door was locked and nobody was out there. He chased me around the office, and at some point it dawned on him that this just wasn’t going to happen. He finally pulled up his trousers. He was very angry and rushed over to his desk, pulled open a door, and had a reel-to-reel tape recorder going. He said to me, “Don’t tell anybody about this. I’ve got it all on tape.” I think he knew I was 16.
It was around 1984; I was about 30. I had just arrived in New York. My agent was hoping to get me into broadcasting. I had an appointment with Ailes. He had a camera set up and a little desk and a script for me. It was a cooking kind of thing, talking about food and whatnot. After he taped me, he locked the door and said he didn’t want any interruptions. I figured out pretty quickly there was no job and this was just a ruse.
He pulled out a garter belt and stockings and told me to put them on. I was very nervous; I didn’t know what to do. He was standing there and I put them on. He wanted me to model them for him. After that, something sexual took place, but I blocked it out of my mind. I don’t know if I engaged with him orally or he engaged with himself. I felt I was being used for his sexual satisfaction. I felt very threatened. He wanted me to take the lingerie home for the next time. I said, “No, thank you, I don’t want to keep it for the next time.” I left and I knew I’d never return. Through the years I felt like a horrible person because I allowed this to happen to me and I didn’t just say “fuck off” and walk out of the room. My husband doesn’t even know.
This is something I’ve carried with me and haven’t told anybody. I was just appalled to read about Gretchen’s story and see how [Ailes] is behaving after 50 years. This was so long ago. I was in college doing some modeling work with an agency in the Philadelphia area. This would have been late ’65 or early ’66; I would have been 18 or 19 years old. A bunch of us girls at the agency were called over to audition for him for some sort of skit on The Mike Douglas Show. He had a room, and one by one he would take us behind closed doors. When my turn came I went in, and he didn’t waste any time. He grabbed me and had his hands on me and he forced me to kiss him. When I recoiled he said, “Well, you know no girls get a job here unless they’re cooperative.” I just pushed him away and ran out of there. He was like, whatever. So, no job for me. He did hire several of the girls from the group, but I don’t know what they had to do to get the job.
Former TV producer
It was 1975. I had a degree in mass communications. A college friend said, “Come to New York.” I got an interview with Roger Ailes. I remember I met him not at some big TV office — it was at his apartment on Central Park South. I don’t remember his exact words, but his message was: If you want to make it in New York City in the TV business, you’re going to have to fuck me, and you’re going to do that with anyone I tell you to. I was afraid he was going to pin me down. He was a big guy and I’m not big at all. He could have overpowered me. I remember running out of that apartment like my hair was on fire and standing on the sidewalk crying, thinking, What’s that guy think I was, a prostitute? In one second, my dreams were shot. He’s going to blackball me everywhere, I’ll never get another interview, I’m not good enough — all that stuff a 20-something girl thinks. It wasn’t, That guy’s a son of a bitch and I should have kicked him in the balls.
Update: Roger Ailes’s outside counsel, Barry Asen, has released the following statement regarding these new accounts:
It has become obvious that Ms. Carlson and her lawyer are desperately attempting to litigate this in the press because they have no legal case to argue. The latest allegations, all 30 to 50 years old, are false.