In March 2010, Roger Ailes paid a visit to Fox News Channel’s Washington bureau. He’d grown frustrated with staffers who’d apparently talked to Howard Kurtz, then with the Washington Post, about the unease of having Glenn Beck on the network.
“There is a deep split within Fox between those who are supportive, and many journalists who are worried about the prospect that Beck is becoming the face of the network,” Kurtz wrote. In that meeting, Ailes admonished, “For the first time in our 14 years we’ve had people apparently shooting in the tent, from within the tent. We prefer people in the tent not dumping on other people in the tent,” he said.
That all-for-one and one-for-all mentality was a driving force for much of Fox News’s success over the last 20 years. The anchors liked each other and they respected their leader. If we all stick together, we can’t be stopped, was the feeling. That sentiment also drove much of Ailes’ support in the days following Gretchen Carlson sexual harassment suit filed against Ailes.
More than a dozen current and former Fox News hosts showed their support, in interviews and on social media. Brit Hume questioned Carlson’s motivation. Sean Hannity called the charges “BS.” Geraldo Rivera dismissed the claims saying Ailes was “about as flirty as the grizzly in #TheRevenant.” Neil Cavuto, who is both an executive and an anchor, penned an op-ed about Ailes’ character, all while recovering from open heart surgery. Bill O’Reilly told Seth Meyers he stands behind Ailes “100 percent.” Bret Baier told Stephen Colbert “these headlines are foreign to me.”
Then there was the cavalcade of women hosts who came forward. We were told they did so on their own.
Jeanine Pirro called Carlson’s lawsuit “absurd;” Greta Van Susteren said she wouldn’t work at Fox “if this were a weird place like that.” (She left the network on Tuesday.) Maria Bartiromo defended Ailes in an interview with Variety; Kimberly Guilfoyle expressed “total disbelief” in an interview with us. Martha MacCallum, Sandra Smith and Mercedes Colwin came to Ailes’s defense in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. Harris Faulkner and Ainsley Earhardt spoke up too.
In that 2010 meeting at Fox News in D.C, Ailes warned his staff: “I was brought up to defend the family. If I couldn’t defend the family I’d leave. I’d go to another family.”