Once again, Fox News Channel finds itself trying to clean up after a sexual harassment scandal. In case you missed it, longtime commentator Eric Bolling faces accusations that he sent incredibly lewd pictures of himself to several female colleagues, and also made inappropriate comments to them. Less than 24 hours after this latest scandal broke, Fox News was all but forced to suspend him pending further investigation.
At first glance, it appeared that the fair and balanced network had finally gotten serious about addressing a serious problem in its culture. Well, it didn’t take long to dash those hopes. On Sunday morning, Fox News’ media critic got the bright idea to shame Bolling’s accusers on-air.
Near the tail end of the first hour of this week’s edition of “#mediabuzz,” veteran media reporter and critic Howard Kurtz addressed the allegations against Bolling. Watch here.
Kurtz noted that HuffPost’s Yashar Ali, who first broke the story, based his account on “a dozen unnamed sources.” He then added this breathtaking comment.
“None of the women described in the story as being upset have come forward.”
There’s a big problem with that statement–it isn’t true. Within hours of Fox News formally announcing Bolling’s suspension, former Fox News contributor Caroline Heldman took to Facebook to give her account of Bolling’s alleged boorishness. Among other things, Heldman claimed that Bolling was brazen enough to call her nicknames like “Dr. McHottie” on-air. She also added that Fox News executives were almost certainly aware of it–and did absolutely nothing. It’s inconceivable that Kurtz wasn’t aware of this.
Heldman went further when she dropped by MSNBC’s “AM Joy” on Sunday morning. Watch a clip here.
Host Joy Reid played a 2011 clip in which Bolling called Heldman “Dr. McHottie” before bringing Heldman on by phone. She said that this behavior started almost from the time she first started appearing on Fox News in 2008, and continued almost unabated until she left in 2011. She said that sexual harassment was “part of the culture” at Fox News. She believed Andrea Tantaros, who is currently suing Fox News for sweeping the harassment she endured under the rug and trying to cyberstalk her into silence, was on to something when she described Fox News as “the Wild West of sexual harassment.”
Heldman claimed that she’d also been harassed by Bill O’Reilly and one of Roger Ailes’ right-hand men, Woody Fraser; indeed, she believes was forced out of Fox for spurning Fraser. She said she didn’t speak up at the time because the culture there was such that she would have been yanked off the air on the spot had she spoken up. Earlier, she said that the makeup artists and other contract workers endured similar treatment–and were also aware they would be out of jobs if they spoke up.
And there, ladies and gentlemen, is the second, and more important reason, why Kurtz’ comments about the Bolling affair are an outrage. He almost certainly knows that anyone who even dared to speak up about being harassed by the likes of O’Reilly and Roger Ailes put their jobs at risk. In an environment like that, is it any wonder women who had to endure this bit their tongues? And is it any wonder that some of them opt to remain anonymous?
Kurtz also forgets that a number of domestic violence and sexual assault victims keep quiet for this very same reason–they’re afraid that no one will believe them. I know from experience. I was married for three years to an emotionally abusive and controlling woman. Even though there were times I was ready to walk out, I was afraid that no one would believe that a 6-2 guy could be abused by a 5-3 woman. This is no different.
We’ve seen a lot of outrageous, callous, degrading, and insensitive remarks from Fox News over the years. But Kurtz’ screed is one of the worst. It would be bad enough even without the fact that Fox News’ harassment culture has been in the news for two years. The fact that he was well aware of this culture and still couldn’t leave well enough alone is beyond the pale.
If he has anything at all in him, he will apologize to Heldman and Bolling’s other accusers, and apologize right now. Let him know what you think of his degrading commentary on his personal Twitter, as well as his show’s Twitter feed. Drop him a line on Facebook as well.
(featured image courtesy Kurtz’ Twitter)