Former Fox News Host Gretchen Carlson On Being 'Fierce' And Fighting Sexual Abuse

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"Be Fierce: Stop Harassment and Take Your Power Back," by Gretchen Carlson. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
"Be Fierce: Stop Harassment and Take Your Power Back," by Gretchen Carlson. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Editor's Note: This segment discusses sexual assault and sexual harassment, and contains audio that some listeners may find disturbing or offensive.

Former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson has released a new book, "Be Fierce: Stop Harassment and Take Your Power Back." The book addresses the fallout from her successful harassment suit against former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, and proposes legislative and social changes that she believes can protect women.

The book comes out as fallout continues over the sexual assault allegations leveled against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.

Carlson (@GretchenCarlson) joins Here & Now's Robin Young to discuss.

Interview Highlights

Oh her reaction to allegations against Harvey Weinstein

"I wasn't surprised. I can tell you that as horrific as the revelations were, and my heart goes out to all of the women who suffered, I at the same time felt immense optimism that we're finally reaching the tipping point. We're not gonna take it anymore, once and for all. And it just really showed me that women were starting to be willing to put their names and their faces to this issue. It wasn't just all anonymous reporting. And that is such a huge, huge step in trying to win this battle."

On the widespread violence of sexual harassment and sexual assault

"I've had occasions in my life, before what I experienced at my most recent employer, where I didn't even call those experiences assault until recently. I think this is something that women think that we can get through. We have an experience, we power through it, we forget about it, we stuff it deep down and we just keep moving on and working harder. And I can't tell you, the thousands of women that I heard from when my story came out, from every profession, where it suddenly became a part of the national dialogue again and they wanted to tell someone and they chose to tell me because they knew I got it."

"We must change the way in which we choose to resolve sexual harassment cases in this country."

Gretchen Carlson

On being forced into silence and mandatory arbitration

"Forced into secrecy, is what it's all about. So, the way in which our society has chosen to handle sexual harassment cases is one of two ways, predominately. Either settlements, where the woman does not work for that company anymore and the perpetrator, in many cases, can stay, and then she's gagged from ever speaking about what actually ever happened to her. Or, by mandatory forced arbitration. These clauses are becoming prevalent in employee contracts. I encourage everyone to look at their contract to see if they have one. I bet you don't know if you even do, but you should. Because what this does is takes away your Seventh Amendment right to an open jury process if you happen to get into a dispute at work. Fact of the matter is, hypothetically, if somebody is sexually harassed and they have this clause, they file a complaint, and guess what? No one ever knows about it. Only 20 percent of the time does the employee win, the depositions are different than an open jury process, so are witnesses. There are no appeals. We must change the way in which we choose to resolve sexual harassment cases in this country, and that is why I've become so active on Capitol Hill, to try and get a bill passed in a bipartisan fashion."

On sexual harassment and sexual assault as nonpartisan issues

"When somebody decides to harass you, they don't ask you what political party you belong to before they do it. I am very optimistic that I — I mean, I have been meeting with Republicans on a private level, and I am optimistic that I will get a Republican to co-sponsor this bill. Because, listen, unless I get both sides, it's not gonna pass, and then it's gonna go up to Donald Trump and we will see what the president will do with this bill."

On the tape of President Trump's offensive and lewd conversation with Billy Bush from 2005

"I had already had my career ended for me at Fox News when that tape came out. I had already filed my suit on July 6. The tape came out, I believe, in October, later that year. And what I will say about the tape is that I showed it to my children right away — they're 12 and 14 — because I wanted to use it as a teachable moment, to show how you don't treat women. And here's the message that I have said about that tape ever since the day it came out, and that is I don't care what political policy you agree with or disagree with on immigration or tax reform or anything else. Human decency supersedes any political policy."

On what needs to happen to change the culture surrounding sexual harassment and sexual assault

"First and foremost we need men to help us, and I dedicate an entire chapter to men who are already defending women. Look, most men want to have a safe work environment for all women. There's also a chapter on parenting, because this starts in the home. Being fierce in life starts when you're bullied in elementary school. It starts when you're sexually assaulted on a college campus. It starts when you're not paid fairly as a woman when you get into the real world, when you don't get a seat in the boardroom and when you don't get the promotion you deserve. This is a rallying cry, and I think we're in this time right now where women, we feel we have a voice."

Book Excerpt: 'Be Fierce'

By Gretchen Carlson

Introduction: Are You Done Taking Sh*t?

Go back to Minnesota & Shut the Hell Up!!
Gretchen needs to let it go. She brought it on herself!
So what if someone said a couple things to you?
Grow up, move on and stop whining.
Gretchen, your show sucked! You are a dumb old never-has-been!
Hope nobody hires you, Skank!
Gold digger MILF!
I wouldn’t stand with you or next to a disgraceful person like you!!
I hope people will walk away & let you suffer, Bitch!!

Welcome to my daily Twitter feed. Imagine having to swallow this kind of hate with your morning coffee! After many years on TV, I wasn’t a stranger to mean tweets. I used to laugh at them, even read them out loud on the air. But now the meanness was like being stabbed with a dagger, and it seemed to have no purpose except to hurt me. It didn’t surprise me that one of these peoples’ favorite weapons was to attack my age or looks: “Minimally talented, over the hill,” crowed one critic. “Old and washed up,” another. Many tweets were typical of what other women who’ve experienced harassment say they hear all the time: “You’re too ugly to be sexually harassed . . . you wish you looked that good!” “Desperate old cow.”

Hmm . . . so only hot young babes get sexually harassed? Only fame-seeking, money-grubbing old hags complain? In the convoluted logic of the Twitterverse, my experience couldn’t be valid because I wasn’t young enough or pretty enough. And even if I were, my experience couldn’t be valid because I opened my mouth and spoke up for myself, making me a bitch. I resisted the impulse to reply to the male tweeters: “Does your mother, wife, or sister know you’re talking trash to a woman on social media?” I didn’t know what I would say to the female tweeters—there were plenty of those too.

One morning, as I was hunched over my iPad scrolling through a fresh batch of vitriol, I glanced up and saw my thirteen-year-old daughter, Kaia, watching me.

“Mom, you have a funny look on your face,” she said. “What are you reading?”

“It’s nothing, honey.” I smiled, but Kaia’s radar was finely attuned to my moods. She was, unfortunately, very aware of what was going on in her mom’s life. She knew that it wasn’t nothing.

Our children really see us. They hear us. And when I took on this fight, I had my children and their future foremost in my mind.

Many people have heard about the sexual harassment case I filed against my former boss. That lawsuit was settled, and there are things I can’t discuss about it. That’s the nature of a settlement. But when it was all over, I decided I wasn’t ready to shut up and sit down.

Labor Day 2016 became a marker in my life—not just the first day of school for my kids, but a change in the way I’d done things for the last twenty-five years.

Every year on the day after Labor Day, my husband, Casey, and I have made sure that one or both of us drives the kids to school and drops them off. (They’re now at ages where they don’t want us to come in!) This tradition has also involved Casey and me then driving into the city together to go to work. But 2016 was, of course, different for me. As we made our way into the city, I was actually going in to get a haircut. For the first time in a long time, I wasn’t going to work to report the news.

Instead—on this day—I was the news.

We got into the city an hour before my appointment, so Casey dropped me off and went on his way. With an hour to kill, I walked into a nearby nail salon to get a pedicure. There I was, all by myself in the salon.

During that hour, the news about me started trickling out; first one report, and then dozens and dozens more. I began to read about myself on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram as if I were having an out-of-body experience. I sat there with tears streaming down my face. The nice lady helping me out was probably wondering what the heck was wrong with me. But she didn’t ask, and I didn’t tell.

Excerpted from the book BE FIERCE: Stop Harassment and Take Your Power Back by Gretchen Carlson. Copyright © Gretchen Carlson by Center Street. Reprinted with permission of Hachette Book Group, New York, NY. All rights reserved.

This article was originally published on October 17, 2017.

This segment aired on October 17, 2017.



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