Why you should care
When this TV commentator sued Fox News executive Roger Ailes, she became a mouthpiece for millions of women.
OZY Media’s third prime-time television show, Breaking Big, airs Fridays at 8:30 p.m. ET on PBS stations, OZY.com and Facebook Watch. Join us as we explore the unexpected journeys to success of some of the world’s most influential stars. This week’s episode features TV commentator, author and women’s advocate, Gretchen Carlson.
When Gretchen Carlson sued then Fox News CEO Roger Ailes for sexual harassment, she catapulted the #MeToo movement into action. After filing her lawsuit, no fewer than 24 other women came forward with allegations of sexual harassment against the TV executive, cementing Carlson’s place in history.
Growing up in Minnesota, Carlson had no idea she would become such a powerful voice. As a child, she excelled in academia and music, and her parents encouraged her to do something important with her talents. When Carlson ran out of opportunities to continue playing the violin, her mother talked her into competing in the Miss Minnesota pageant. To Carlson’s astonishment, she won, and went on to be crowned Miss America 1989.
Winning the crown launched Carlson’s career in broadcast journalism, and she quickly progressed from local TV stations to national news, soon becoming an anchor on Fox & Friends.
From her very first job in TV, Carlson experienced sexual harassment, and she found it was no better at the top. While at Fox News, she continually had to fight to be taken seriously. After enduring years of sexual harassment from Ailes, Carlson decided she had had enough. She sued him and won, taking down a media giant and becoming a mouthpiece for millions of other women who had experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.
Today, Carlson is the chair of the Miss America board of directors and has faced recent allegations herself about her leadership — allegations she denies. She also heads the Gretchen Carlson Leadership Initiative, helping to provide resources to thousands of underserved women across the U.S. and empowering them to fight back against gender-based violence, discrimination and harassment.
“Sexual harassment is not about sex,” Carlson says. “It’s about power and what someone does to you to try to take away your power.”