The Daily Beast published a five-byline story today (one of them was the site’s editor-in-chief, Noah Shachtman) about race relations at Fox News, and it’s intense.
According to the outlet’s reporting, there was a phone call (although we’re told it was technically a “Zoom forum”) between Fox News executives and Black staffers on June 9, and the participants included Fox News Media CEO Suzanne Scott, FNC president/executive editor Jay Wallace and HR chief Kevin Lord. The event was reportedly led by Scott, who is white, and Marsheila J. Hayes, the vp of diversity and inclusion at Fox Corp, who is Black, and it focused, in part, on the network’s news coverage of the protests against police brutality.
TVNewser obtained the email Scott sent to diversity and inclusion council members, inviting them to the Zoom forum.
From: Scott, Suzanne
Sent: Saturday, June 6, 2020 2:31 PM
Subject: An Open Forum
Dear colleagues and council members,
I would like to extend an invitation to join me for an open forum to enable an honest discussion about the tragic events of the last two weeks and the period of civil unrest we now find ourselves in as a nation.
Part of this discussion will involve the Special Report infographic from Friday evening which was deeply insensitive and should have never aired—period. We have publicly condemned the use of the graphic and addressed this internally with the show team and all involved. I want to apologize to each of you for the pain it caused and welcome your feedback so we can ensure this does not happen again.
I look forward to a candid discussion with all of you.
Harris Faulkner, a member of the network’s diversity and inclusion council, previously told Variety that Scott “meant it when she said she wanted an earful, because she sat there for an hour or more, and people had some things to say.”
The Daily Beast story says that the open forum was tense from the start. One topic that reportedly came up on the call was the infamous Special Report with Bret Baier graphic from the show’s June 5 broadcast, which showed how the stock market has jumped after outrage over the killing and assault of Black men, including the 1968 assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the 2014 killing of Michael Brown by Ferguson, Mo., police, the 1992 riots over the Rodney King verdict and the recent murder of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police.
According to the story, one staffer directly asked why Baier, the anchor of the show, was not on the call, nor any other white on-air talent. (Baier had previously apologized for the “major screw-up,” adding, “the buck stops with me.” The network also apologized for the “insensitivity” of the infographic, adding that it “should have never aired on television without full context.”)
The story also says Charles Payne, who is Black and hosts a 2 p.m. show on Fox Business, was especially angry on the call. He was reportedly “ripshit” about the Special Report graphic disaster and about racist remarks that Laura Ingraham had recently made on the air.
Payne reportedly suggested he’d been the victim of racial discrimination, often passed over for opportunities given instead to white colleagues.
Several participants “expressed anger and distress about rampant racism at Fox, both on- and off-air,” according to the article.
The Daily Beast story also reports that Fox Corp. CEO Lachlan Murdoch “personally approved” the segment where Carlson spoke about the exit of his now-former top writer Blake Neff on Monday, “despite demands from Fox News executives that he pretape the segment and strike a conciliatory tone.”
According to Fox, the segment was pretaped.
Apparently, anger among many Fox News staffers has been bubbling for a while now.
Fox News personnel have expressed outrage to network brass over their unwillingness to rein in hosts like Ingraham, whose prime-time show—helmed by Tommy Firth, the same executive producer behind Megyn Kelly’s former Fox show—has long made white grievance politics a core feature. On June 29, she did an anti-Black Lives Matter monologue which included a line that many viewed as a racist dog whistle and threat: “We will remember those who desert their colors.”
The article also mentions Patricia Peart, who just last month was promoted by current management to the role of vice president of weekend booking. Peart handles all weekend breaking news coverage and supervises guest booking across all of FNC’s weekend programming.
According to the story, Peart previously registered concerns about racism with network executives, and was occasionally tasked over the years with training younger, less-qualified white men and women who were ultimately promoted to jobs above her. This was during the Roger Ailes era.
Peart told The Daily Beast on the record:
“There have been a couple of issues that have happened with one person and it got to the point where a complaint was made but that was not made by me. I was asked to meet Suzanne Scott. We had a conversation about it. I was given an option of what I wanted to do—did I want the person fired. I said no. I received an apology and the issue never came up again. The n-word was not used but there were other comments that were inappropriate and insensitive and it was not a one-time thing but it was not something that was ongoing.”
Fox News provided The Daily Beast with the following statement for their story:
“FOX News Media is committed to providing an ongoing dialogue targeting issues of diversity and workplace inclusion, which is why we recently took the unprecedented action of providing an open forum among an intimate group of diverse employees to candidly discuss this critical issue. We have long been a leader in cable news for featuring a broad range of voices, and will continue those efforts to ensure all views are respected and celebrated both on and off air.”
The Daily Beast says that it spoke to more than a dozen Fox News insiders for its story.