As Fox News continues to reel from the summary dismissal of its top star Bill O’Reilly this week and its creator, Roger Ailes earlier this year, a lot of attention has been given to women who worked there and whether they experienced any sort of harassment.
There was a very interesting exchange between Jake Tapper and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin during his interview with her on The Lead Thursday. Tapper asked, directly, what she experienced during her time working there as a commentator.
Palin, who left the network in June of 2015, didn’t elaborate about her personal experiences, but she did say the Fox News culture needed to change.
She said she’d never put up with any sort of harassment. When Tapper asked if that’s why she left, she said, “You can ask them why I’m no longer with Fox. You know, I’m not - I’m not going to speak for them. My contract wasn’t renewed, that’s the line.”
It doesn’t take much online research to find evidence of questionable comments by Fox News executives and personalities aimed at Palin.
There was the time in 2010 when Don Imus of Fox Business asked Fox News Chris Wallace about an upcoming interview.
“When you interview her, will she be sitting on your lap?” asked a laughing Imus.
“One can only hope,” said a laughing Chris Wallace.
Or, there are the comments of Roger Ailes, the Fox News godfather, who used this language in 2011 to describe why he brought her to the network:
“I hired Sarah Palin because she was hot and got ratings.”
Or, there’s Tucker Carlson, who will replace Bill O’Reilly as the network’s anchor in the 8 p.m. timeslot. When he was a Fox contributor in 2011, Carlson drew criticism for tweeting in 2011, “Palin’s popularity falling in Iowa, but maintains lead to become supreme commander in Milfistan.”
“Milf” is Internet slang for sexually attractive mother.
Carlson later deleted the tweet and apologized.
Those are three public examples of how top executives and anchors at Fox viewed Palin. What happened in private is not clear. Palin’s comments speak for themselves.
On Friday, Wallace responded in a statement: “More than seven years ago, I engaged in a playful discussion with former FOX Business host Don Imus. Immediately, I realized it was an inappropriate comment and apologized to Gov. Palin. She accepted my apology and since then, we have done a number of interviews and had a respectful professional relationship.”
Here’s the full exchange between Tapper and Palin:
TAPPER: I have to ask you a question, and it is kind of sensitive, but you are in a unique role in being a strong woman who worked at Fox News Channel as a Contributor. And I normally don’t cover a lot of media stories, but obviously the upheaval going on there with the CEO and its biggest star ousted because of sexual harassment, not just an issue at Fox News Channel but an issue across the country, and it seems to be with what happened with Bill O’Reilly really a change in corporate culture in terms of what is tolerated. What do you make of it?
PALIN: Well, I think the key there is that - you said I used to be with Fox. I used to be with Fox. Corporate culture there obviously has to change. You know, women don’t deserve -they should not ever have to put up with any kind of intimidating workspace. At the same time, if a woman believes that she is being intimidated and harassed, she needs to stand up and do something about it, not stick around for a paycheck for years and years and years, and then after the fact complain about what she went through. As a strong woman, I say, you know, we should be - feel more empowered than that and we should, you know, take a stand and get out of the place or, you know, blow the whistle on the - on the - whoever is the perpetrator doing the bad stuff so that the culture will change. But, yes, obviously things are changing quickly at Fox. There are some great, great people who are there though, and I appreciate that, you know, what Fox News does as CNN, you know, adding to the discourse and to the debate, which is a healthy thing for the society. You know, more power to the good things that Fox News is doing but, yes, culture had to change there.
TAPPER: Did you ever witness or experience, God forbid, anything like that at Fox?
PALIN: I wouldn’t put up with anything that would be perceived as intimidating or harassing.
TAPPER: But you said you’re former, so I wonder was it part of the reason you left?
PALIN: You can ask them why I’m no longer with Fox. You know, I’m not - I’m not going to speak for them. My contract wasn’t renewed, that’s the line.
TAPPER: I don’t want to be a jerk, but it sounds like you experienced something.
PALIN: I just - you know, it was time to part ways and, you know, get out there in - I guess, a more diverse arena to express views and to speak for the public, and that’s what I’ve been able to do now.
TAPPER: All right. Well, I’m not going to push any further on that. But Governor Palin, we always appreciate you stopping by. Thank you so much, appreciate it.
PALIN: Appreciate you. Thanks.