There’s been a spate of “effective immediately” media separations in the last 24 hours: NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Shell was the first domino to fall, then came Tucker Carlson at Fox News, and then Don Lemon at CNN. All for the same issue.
All of these media companies act as if they were caught unawares, but our media enables (and rewards, at times) a toxic culture of sexual misconduct and misogyny. I could, for example, walk in to any media company and identify potentially problematic employees within days. I suspect any woman who has endured sexual harassment at work could do the same. One could say we are “experts” now. So it baffles me, and with some I simply don’t believe, that people paid millions of dollars a year to run a company can’t see these things coming. They know about the problem, but until it becomes a problem for their business, they do not care.
A brief tour through the last 24 hours of sexism causing the firings of three men in our media:
Comcast didn’t say much other than that Shell violated company policy and his departure was “effective immediately.” Shell’s separation followed an investigation by outside counsel.
Things became a little clearer on Monday when the lawyer for CNBC anchor Hadley Gamble accused Shell of sexual harassment and sex discrimination.
Comcast called this “inappropriate conduct with a female employee.” Apparently, the outside counsel investigation found evidence that “corroborated the allegations.”
Things usually have to be really bad for there to be corroboration of targeted harassment like sexual harassment and sexism.
NBCUniversal does not plan to pay Shell his severance, according to unnamed sources speaking to the Wall Street Journal. This could be a good start toward the ending of incentivizing sexual harassment and misogyny. Comcast said Shell was fired with cause.
Shell had only been the CEO for three years.
The thing is, NBC has a history of a culture of sexual harassment. They’ve fired both Matt Lauer and Mark Halperin after reports of sexual harassment, and Halperin had the additional accusations of sexual assault.
In 2016, they even hired sportscaster Mike Tirico even “after multiple publicized reports dating back to the 1990s of stalking and sexually harassing his female colleagues.”
The issue is larger than one person; it always has been. And it could be addressed much better than it is.
Over at Fox News, they unexpectedly dumped cash cow Tucker Carlson on Monday, even though they had been promoting his show tonight earlier.
Tucker has gotten the network into all kinds of legal trouble and he has also been fighting with management behind the scenes. But apparently, this separation is due to the discrimination lawsuit filed by Abby Grossberg, a former producer and concern over Tucker’s coverage (read: whitewashing of) 1/6 attack and conspiracy theories.
Tucker has a long, disgusting history of hating women and girls, over which I dirtied myself earlier to deliver a brief reminder.
And then, also on Monday, CNN fired Don Lemon after 17 years at the network. While the network’s statement didn’t elaborate on the cause, it came after multiple sexist comments and reports that Lemon mistreated the women with whom he worked.
“Don will forever be a part of the CNN family, and we thank him for his contributions over the past 17 years,” said CNN CEO Chris Licht in a memo to staff. “We wish him well and will be cheering him on in his future endeavors.”
That neutral niceness didn’t last, however, because soon Lemon was blasting the network on Twitter, writing “I have been terminated by CNN. I am stunned. After 17 years at CNN I would have thought that someone in management would have had the decency to tell me directly. At no time was I ever given any indication that I would not be able to continue to do the work I have loved at the network.”
CNN wasn’t having that and they responded saying Lemon’s statement was inaccurate, that he had been offered an opportunity to meet with management, but instead decided to release a statement on Twitter, perhaps a smart move given the Men’s Rights Incel direction of the social media app under Elon Musk.
Lemon retained Hollywood litigator Bryan Freedman, who also handled Chris Cuomo’s exit.
Lemon was fired without cause, according to a source speaking to Deadline.
Several outlets initially reported that Lemon still has an estimated $20 million left to be paid on his contract going through 2026, but that verbiage was taken down without comment. It’s unclear how much money is left on Lemon’s contract, but he stands a good chance of getting a lot of it if he was indeed fired without cause.
Years ago, when Fox was first accused of sexual harassment, I wrote that they were not the only outlet, that this was actually systemic within media. Sure, Fox News celebrates the kind of oppressive patriarchy that enables sexual harassment and assault at work, but sex-based attacks on women at work happen everywhere.
Not long after that, the stories started pouring in and really haven’t stopped. Over and over again, man does something creepy, man hurts a woman’s career, man even sexually assaults a woman at work, man uses his power at work to try to force sexual relations on an unwilling person and over and over again, man gets a golden parachute on his way out the door.
Man is paid full package – outrageous amounts of money, by the way – for being a sexual predator, for being “inappropriate” as our media likes to call it.
When people are paid tens of millions of dollars for being “fired,” the mechanism of firing is not exactly working as a deterrent. While the people fired will no doubt argue that they have been “canceled” and no longer are enjoying being the center of the universe on top of making tens of millions of dollars for their work, it’s really tough to make that argument in the court of public opinion, especially when many of the same people treated raising the minimum wage to $15.00 an hour as an outrageous hardship for corporations.
The federal minimum wage is $7.25.
Don Lemon, for example, was making around $4 million a year at CNN.
Tucker Carlson was reportedly making $8 million per year at Fox, but he also inherited tens of millions of dollars, has published successful books and has built a brand empire for himself.
The entire entertainment business is replete with exploitation, sexual abuses and sexism. The only way to clean it up is to make it cost the company money to hire and to retain people who have made it clear that they have troubling attitudes.
Tucker Carlson’s comments about how he’d enjoy the fantasy of 14-year-old girls being lesbians at boarding school so long as it wasn’t his daughter, his defense of child marriage and his use of the c word to describe Martha Stewart’s daughter would be enough to alert any person worthy of earning the kinds of salaries that the people in charge at Fox News make that there might be a problem.
Add in the accusation that Carlson’s team put images of Nancy Pelosi in a bathing suit around the office as a “joke” (because sexualizing women politicians in a NEWS ROOM is a sex-based reaction to their power and attempt to undermine it) and it just begs the question: Why was he still employed.
Certainly a policy like this wouldn’t uncover everyone, but it would be a good start. If networks can’t see this stuff coming, they need only elevate some women who’ve been sexually harassed to spot early warning signs. They aren’t hard to catch once you’ve been through it.
So, that’s just the last 24 hours for sexual harassment and sexism in the media.
Hostile work climates poisoned with misogyny and sexual assault harm all of us. It is not unrelated that this same media spent decades reporting on abortion as an “issue” to be debated, much as one might discuss whether or not the government should restrict gun rights, without ever noticing that women are not inanimate objects and supposedly are entitled to human rights, which experts say encompasses safe access to abortion.
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Sarah has been credentialed to cover President Barack Obama, then VP Joe Biden, 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and exclusively interviewed Speaker Nancy Pelosi multiple times and exclusively covered her first home appearance after the first impeachment of then President Donald Trump.
Sarah is two-time Telly award winning video producer and a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.