Once again, Fox News is breaking all the rules in terms of how things in the media are world are supposed to happen. Only these days, it’s always in a bad way.
If there is anyone at Fox who doesn’t feel as if the earth is crumbling under their feet, they better look again.
Today’s misery index at Fox includes the announcement that Greta Van Susteren, a stalwart in the channel’s nightly lineup, is gone – just like that after 14 years.
And oh, by the way, Fox News also agreed today to pay Gretchen Carlson $20 million while issuing a remarkable apology – that certainly reads like an admission of guilt – in her lawsuit alleging sexual harassment by Roger Ailes, the channel’s former CEO who was forced out in July after her lawsuit was filed.
"Yes, I have left the Fox News Channel,” Van Susteren said today on her Facebook page “On Thursday night, I made my decision and informed Fox News of my decision that I was leaving Fox News Channel per my contract. Fox has not felt like home to me for a few years and I took advantage of the clause in my contract which allows me to leave now."
The clause to which she refers allowed her to essentially void her contract should Ailes leave the network. Several Fox on-air personalities reportedly have such clauses in their contracts.
Van Susteren’s exit could not have been handled more poorly from a PR standpoint. After 14 years, her viewers are told one morning she’s out, and they will never see her on Fox again.
What part of that makes Fox think her followers are instantly going to embrace Brit Hume, who is coming out of semi-retirement to take over her show until the November presidential election?
Van Susteren's social media followers are passionate and protective of her. I know that from the times she pointed them in my direction as a result of things I wrote. Despite such disagreements, I thought she was one of the hardest-working show hosts on cable.
In a statement, Fox co-presidents Jack Abernethy and Bill Shine said: “We are grateful for Greta's many contributions over the years and wish her continued success."
Can’t you just feel the love and camaraderie within the fabulous community that is Fox?
But the bigger story is the settlement for Carlson, who described Ailes as nothing less than a sexual predator in her lawsuit – one of several women who have done so in recent weeks.
Ailes, for the record, denies all such allegations – even as the channel’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, issues the following apology:
"During her tenure at Fox News, Gretchen exhibited the highest standards of journalism and professionalism. She developed a loyal audience and was a daily source of information for many Americans. We are proud that she was part of the Fox News team. We sincerely regret and apologize for the fact that Gretchen was not treated with the respect and dignity that she and all of our colleagues deserve.”
The company was on the hook for the $20 million even though Carlson sued Ailes and not Fox as a result of Ailes’ contract when he was CEO. Her contract did not allow her to sue the company. Her only option was arbitration.
That $20 million to Carlson is in addition to the $40 million Fox reportedly paid Ailes to get him out of the building.
As much as the focus has been on the epic fall of Ailes, what Carlson accomplished through her lawsuit could be the development that has the largest and most lasting effect. Hopefully, the massive publicity it generated and lessons it offered about the behavior she alleged will make the media workplace safer and more equitable for many women.
Meanwhile, the mess at Fox is far from being cleaned up.