Sexual harassment case will likely bring a legal onslaught from Fox News boss Roger Ailes

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Alpha male Fox News boss Roger Ailes does not suffer from lack of confidence or a disinclination for combat. So expect him to deploy overwhelming force after being sued for sexual harassment by recently-departed Fox News host Gretchen Carlson. "NBC Nightly News" and "ABC World News Tonight" covered this as important news. (Adweek) Lester Holt assured us, “A sexual harassment scandal is rocking the world of cable news.” Meanwhile, CNN and MSNBC displayed expectedly greater ardor in following the story than his own network.

Fox was quiet for a bit and struck some as "flat-footed." (Politico) But Ailes was not silent for long. "This is a retaliatory suit for the network's decision not to renew her contract, which was due to the fact that her disappointingly low ratings were dragging down the afternoon lineup," he said. "When Fox News did not commence any negotiations to renew her contract, Ms. Carlson became aware that her career with the network was likely over and conveniently began to pursue a lawsuit."

Carlson's suit offers the prospect of a tawdry tussle as she claims professional payback after "she rejected his sexual advances." Initial sympathy toward her was evident in the same mainstream media reviled by Fox, especially as it relied on a staple of spineless coverage: anonymous sources. "He hated her and would tell people that she was ‘a crazy, vindictive bitch,’” The Huffington Post quoted "one Fox News source."

There was more: “He asked me to turn around so he can see my ass,” it claimed via "one female Fox News contributor." (The Huffington Post) The reporter was the same one who, as a Breitbart News employee, was roughed up by Corey Lewandowski at a Trump rally.

Will any of this "rock" even the females in Fox's male-dominated audience? With cable ratings strong due to the presidential campaign, don't bet on it. And don't expect any outpouring of moral outrage even if Carlson were be proven correct and Ailes' own employment status altered. Bill O'Reilly lost a custody fight over two children amid unseemly claims about him. (New York Daily News) A prominent correspondent, Ed Henry, is now "taking time off" amid tabloid claims of extramarital exuberance. (People) Fox's ratings remain unimpaired. Its many diehards save their righteous indignation for heathen liberals, such as President Obama, rather than the indiscretions of favorite on-air personalities (or, presumably, off-air managers).

Legally, an initial threshold question is whether there's a tangible allegation that gender discrimination, such as harassment and retaliation, did cause Carlson harm. If such a case is established and she survives a motion to dismiss the suit, the burdens shifts to Ailes & Co. to argue there was a non-discriminatory basis for the actions at issue, like not signing her to a new deal.

Carlson would put on evidence to attempt to rebut the company’s assertions. Still, by one early analysis, her initial filing "is riddled with some legal issues that could put Carlson at a disadvantage," including not naming Fox News as a defendant and also filing in New Jersey even as she based her claim on a New York law. (Law Newz)

And if Fox doesn't try to do the smart thing and settle quietly, one can imagine Ailes going full throttle and trying to tarnish Carlson with claims of poor ratings, viewer displeasure, colleagues who thought she was a pain, and worse. Ailes loyalists in the newsroom may line up around the block to be deposed about Carlson's alleged frailties and win valuable Murdoch Rewards Points. Ailes is known for not taking insults lightly, so his ego could assure lots of future fodder for our ravenous tabloid impulses.

Yahoo's death spiral

"Yahoo's drawn-out sale is finally approaching the finish. Final bids are due July 18, according to a prominent Yahoo investor." (Mercury News) The onetime giant's suitors appear to include Verizon, AT&T and "a group including Quicken Loans founder Dan Gilbert and backed by Berkshire Hathaway Chairman Warren Buffett." A bunch of private equity firms have kicked the tires. Verizon is deemed to have the inside track.

Brexit's impact on media companies

Carter Pilcher, the head of Shorts International, a video company that specializes in short-form video, says “the safest thing would be to put your operation in France or Germany” in the wake of Britain's vote to exit the European Union. (Recode) His office is in the same London neighborhood that's home to Facebook and Google and he's sure “all of [the U.K.-based tech and media companies] will have to move big chunks of our operation out of London. I think it will go from the capital of media in Europe to capital of the U.K."

Journalism in the digital age

Guardian News and Media’s Editor-in-Chief Katharine Viner was speaking to a London crowd about the downsides of our algorithm- and platform-dominated world. (Digiday) She's down on the rise of social media giants, notably Facebook. And the account of her address to marketers concludes, "Journalists themselves have, of course, made mistakes, regardless of digital, for various reasons. But it’s the fact that in the digital era the rumors and lies are read just as widely as the facts, and often more because they’re 'wilder' than real life and more 'enticing' to share..."

ESPN's theory of relativity

Jon Champion, ESPN's play-by-play announcer at Wednesday's Wales-Portugal semi-final match in the European championship, noted an unceasing "debate...who's better, Ronaldo or Messi," alluding to Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo and Argentine Lionel Messi, clearly the two greatest players in the world.

Or an unceasing debate (in his mind) as to who's better on any particular day. "Well, today Ronaldo has scored in a European championship semifinal whilst his arch rival has been convicted of tax fraud in Spain. So there is quite a contrast." Ah, yes, it was a bad day in court for Messi and his father, though they won't do jail time. (The Telegraph)

A poignant coincidence

It was also Germany versus France in an exhibition game in Paris the night that terrorists stormed the Bataclan club on Nov. 13. Then, as today, a key player for France was Antoine Griezmann. His sister, Maud, 28, handles his press strategy and was at the club with her boyfriend. Shots rang out and they dropped to the floor with a woman in their midst. Maud "does not remember any distinguishing characteristics about the woman next to her. Blond or brunette, tall or short — nothing." (The New York Times) "She does not know her name or how old she was. She only remembers the woman’s hands. Ms. Griezmann held one of them; Mr. Degoul held the other. As the terrorists killed people on the mezzanine and in the concert pit below, Ms. Griezmann and Mr. Degoul and the woman buried their faces and shut their eyes and held their bodies as still as possible except for the tiniest movements of the hands they clasped."

Bashing Col. Robert McCormick

Karen Kent, president of Unite Here Local 1 in Chicago, badmouthed a move to rebrand the area around the McCormick Place convention complex as the McCormick Place campus. She said the late owner of the Chicago Tribune, after whom the convention center was named in 1960, "was a xenophobic racist whose name shouldn't be perpetuated" and melded her attack with one on Donald Trump. (Crain's)

In a letter to the paper this morning, David Hiller, who heads the nonprofit McCormick Foundation (for which my spouse labors), notes that The Tribune "began as an anti-slavery paper, helped elect Abraham Lincoln, supported the Union war efforts, emancipation, the Civil War Amendments, and the post-Civil War Civil Rights Acts, all under the direction of McCormick’s grandfather Joseph Medill. Under McCormick, the Tribune supported the Supreme Court’s decision in Brown v. Board of Education to end segregated schools, the court’s subsequent enforcement decisions, and the Civil Rights efforts emerging in the 1950s. The Chicago Defender, the leading African-American newspaper in the country, observed that 'the Tribune editorial policy has always displayed friendliness and a sympathetic understanding toward the problems of the Negro. I wish Kent had included some of this in her remarks.'" (Chicago Tribune)

How a New York newspaper publisher became Donald Trump's "Mini-Me"

Vanity Fair's Sarah Ellison has a profile of Jared Kushner, Donald Trump's son-in-law and the owner of the New York Observer. Among the juiciest bits: "One former Observer editor told me that Kushner attempted to order takedown pieces on people who had crossed his family in their business dealings. (A person close to Kushner vehemently denies this.)" Also: "At the Observer, Kushner established a relationship with the paper’s legendary editor, Peter Kaplan. The two attended a Yankees game together and sat in the rain, sharing beers. His relationship with the Observer’s reporters, however, was less cozy, particularly early in his tenure. One former Observer editor described Kushner as a young man who would promise raises to reporters and then cancel them." (Vanity Fair)

What you missed this morning

Surprise, Fox did not lead "Fox & Friends" with Gretchen Carlson's suit. Instead, it was abuzz over FBI Director James Comey's appearance today before a Republican-led House committee clearly chagrined with the decision not to prosecute Hillary Clinton. And "despite the investigation being over, it will not be getting over anytime soon," said reporter Garrett Tenney, inadvertently reminding us of the great congressional tradition of unending probes, most recently the seven (or was it eight?) investigations into the Benghazi tragedy. Meanwhile, MSNBC's Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski were heading down the likely rabbit hole of whether Hillary Clinton should be cut off from national intelligence security briefing (give her past security clearances)

CNN's "New Day" was thankfully Hillary free, at least for a bit, discussing a Minnesota police incident where a cop shot and killed a man in a traffic stop, with the man's girlfriend live-streaming most of it. Then there was a second police incident the day before in Baton Rouge, Louisiana to discuss before, well, conceding that "Washington" wasn't too excited in this cops stuff.

"Morning Joe" beckoned Al Sharpton for his purported insights on the law enforcement matters. "The Nation Stunned by Two Back-To-Back-Police Shootings," blared the chyron as Sharpton said that cops "must see they will pay a price" for deadly misconduct. Where is the "national political discussion" on policing, Sharpton asked, as if we've not had innumerable discussions after comparable incidents, with most of those debates (often over guns) briefly heated and often fruitless. "Good morning and god bless," said Scarborough as he bid Sharpton farewell prior to the reverend heading to Baton Rouge.

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    James Warren

    New York City native, graduate of Collegiate School, Amherst College and Roosevelt University. Married to Cornelia Grumman, dad of Blair and Eliot. National columnist, U.S. News & World Report. Former managing editor and Washington Bureau Chief, Chicago Tribune.


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