There’s an old expression that speaks to someone with bad intentions. “I’d watch out for him if I were you—he walks around here like a fox in the henhouse.” Recently, a conservative cable news network has been plagued by sexual harassment lawsuits and accusations to the tune of multi-million dollar settlements. In 2016, Roger Ailes, the founder and former Chairman and CEO of Fox News and the Fox Television Stations Group, resigned following allegations that he sexually harassed female colleagues. Last week, the same fate befell Bill O’Reilly, major media star and host of Fox News’s most popular talk show The O’Reilly Factor. One doesn’t need to consider these two men for long or the situation in which they have found themselves in to understand one thing unequivocally. There’s a “culture of compliance” at the Fox News network that has allowed these very powerful men to continue to create a workplace environment that has been inherently hostile to women. Together, they built an empire at Fox News that supported conservative politics and politicians exclusively. Now with two of the biggest and brightest stars dismissed from leadership one has to wonder, “What of the culture that allowed years, if not decades of abuse to go unaddressed?”
The absolute silence of those at the network, who tout themselves as holding the so-called “moral high ground” such as Sean Hannity and Chris Wallace, is stunning. It reminds me of the famous quote by Edmund Burke, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Why the silence? Are there others who are being protected and enabled to harass and abuse women in the workplace? Are others being protected by the network and are just waiting in the shadows until the “storm” blows over? One thing is certain. Abuse and sustained harassment in the workplace is against the law. The fact that many, men and women knew this abuse was going on and yet remained silent in the face of it, makes them complicit in maintaining an environment that supports it. It is no different for the greater community. We all have a responsibility to speak up and call out people, organizations, businesses and institutions where we KNOW there’s a culture of sustained abuse, harassment, intimidation and overt oppression of certain people and groups of people. It takes courage and a type of moral integrity that not everyone is willing to embrace. The willingness to step up and stand in the gap for someone else that is unable to stand up for themselves is part of what being an ally is all about.
Fox News has a serious problem. Although they have rid themselves of a certain two high profile players in the game of serial abuse and harassment, the network and culture of the entire organization are not without culpability for enabling the players and supporting the games. The Fox Network, by the silence of those remaining, may still be infected and extremely dangerous to women and minority workers under its charge. Even more than FOX, we, ALL of us, are part of the problem when we do nothing but sit and watch when we witness things like sexual and racial harassment and abuse and say nothing. These things cannot be overlooked, nor can they be “tolerated.” Don’t be a bystander…say something or you are both complicit and supportive of what you “say” you abhor.