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Roger Ailes, the embattled chief executive of Fox News, resigned Thursday amid allegations of sexual harassment and retaliation. (Photo: AP)

Ailes Resigns—With $40M—But Will Fox's "Cesspool of Sexism" Change?

Rupert Murdoch, who owns 21st Century Fox, the news network's parent company, will step in as acting chairman and CEO.

Nadia Prupis

Roger Ailes, the embattled chief executive of Fox News, resigned Thursday amid allegations that he had sexually harassed and retaliated against women at the network for decades.

Ailes' resignation comes along with the stipulation that he cannot start a new media outlet to compete with Fox, as insiders speculated he might do; however, he will get the $40 million payout that many saw as an outrageous sum for a disgraced mogul. As the New York Times points out, that "amounts to the remainder of his existing employment contract through 2018."

Rupert Murdoch, who owns 21st Century Fox, the news network's parent company, will step in as acting chairman and CEO.

The departure was set into motion after anchor Gretchen Carlson filed a bombshell lawsuit earlier this month accusing Ailes of having her fired from her weekday news show after she rebuffed his sexual advances. In the intervening weeks, more than a dozen women, including Carlson's Fox News colleague and star anchor Megyn Kelly, said they'd been harassed by Ailes—stories that stretched as far back as the 1960s.

Attorneys for Carlson said the mogul's downfall represented a "seismic shift in the media world."

One of her lawyers, Nancy Erika Smith, said in response to Ailes' ouster, "We hope that all businesses now understand that women will no longer tolerate sexual harassment, and reputable companies will no longer shield those who abuse women."

But some observers are not so sure that message will get through. As Jessica Valenti writes for the Guardian, "removing one lascivious man can't turn around the mess of misogyny that is Fox News."

In her column titled titled "Fox News is a cesspool of sexism. Firing Roger Ailes won't fix that," Valenti writes:

This is a network that bans its female on-air talent from wearing pants, where a host characterized a military operation against ISIS led by a woman as "boobs on the ground" and the ethos of the coverage is shockingly antagonistic to women's rights.

[....] I have no doubt that the leadership of a man who may have told a woman "you might have to give a blowjob every once in a while" for him to help with her career would impact the tone of coverage on women at Fox News. But the disparagement of women at Fox, whether its employees or its viewers, isn't just about Ailes. So long as the network is a mouthpiece for the right, it will continue to reflect outdated notions about women's roles.

Meanwhile, as Mona Chalabi points out in a separate column, sexual harassment at work rarely results in charges against the perpetrator. In the U.S., "over half of sexual harassment claims result in no charge," while "75 percent of people who experience sexual harassment do not report it," she writes.

"The issue is a global one," Chalabi continues. "For example, according to the United Nations, 'between 40 and 50 percent of women in European Union countries experience unwanted sexual advancements, physical contact, or other forms of sexual harassment at their workplace.'"

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