Female Newscasters Recall "Toxic" Culture While Working at Fox News

Alisyn Camerota - Screenshot - H 2017

On CNN Thursday, 'New Day' host Alisyn Camerota and consultant Margaret Hoover talked about their time at the rival cable network, likening it to "navigating a minefield."

One day after Bill O'Reilly was ousted from Fox News, CNN's Alisyn Camerota and Margaret Hoover appeared on air Thursday to discuss their time at Fox News and their experience with harassment at the network. 

Camerota, who worked at Fox News for about 15 years before moving to CNN, where she now co-hosts that network's morning show, New Day, said that she never experienced sexual harassment, but she certainly was bullied at the network. 

"I had an experience, more than one, with Roger Ailes. But that wasn't the half of it," said Camerota. "The real harassment was emotional harassment there. Roger could be a bully, he would call people names. And it was that feeling of never wanting to run afoul of him that was really the chilling effect." 

O'Reilly exited the network Wednesday, weeks after a New York Times exposé revealed that the Fox News host and his employer paid $13 million to women who alleged he had sexually harassed or verbally abused them over the years. Ailes, formerly head of the network, left Fox News last summer after a sexual harassment lawsuit from former anchor Gretchen Carlson. 

Camerota also stressed that while Fox News has defended O'Reilly by saying that no employee called the network's anonymous hotline, she wasn't aware a hotline even existed.

"There was no hotline. I mean I can't underscore this enough," she said. "If a hotline is a secret, it doesn't work."

O'Reilly's latest accuser, who appeared on The View Thursday to reveal her identity, worked with her attorney, Lisa Bloom, to call the Fox hotline to report the incident. 

Hoover, now a consultant at CNN, agreed with Camerota's characterization of Fox News, pointing to "a gossipy culture that was set up that also helped police what [Ailes] wanted to see. He really was a bully and enforced it in a culture that became so toxic that it was hard to feel that you had the ability to say what you wanted to say and to be authentic on the air there." 

She also said that while appearing on O'Reilly's show, she felt like "a blond backdrop for O'Reilly's opinions and not as a political analyst or a commentator," which she called a "pretty common experience at Fox News."

Both O'Reilly and Ailes have denied the allegations against them. 

"I was never sexually harassed explicitly by Bill O'Reilly, but there moments that were very uncomfortable with him and I had to navigate a minefield, is what it felt like to me, to make sure that I never was in an experience or a situation where I felt vulnerable," Hoover said. 

She added that when she appeared on his show, O'Reilly would critique "everything about our appearances as soon as we got on set, from the length of my eyelashes to the color of my lip gloss." 

Camerota added that after she made complaints at Fox News, she "met with sympathetic ears," but "they felt that they couldn't change Roger. That there was nothing they could do. And I think they were right. He was the king. There's nothing that you can do when the king wants something a certain way." 

"And look, I was there [at Fox News] for a long time, as you all know. And I know a lot about the culture and my friends there," she added. "There is a feeling that there's more to come. That this isn't the end, just Bill O'Reilly leaving. There's more to come."

Hoover went on to "commend a new generation at Fox News" who ousted both Ailes and O'Reilly, though she worries that because many of the executives who knew about harassment going on at the network are still there, "the culture that perpetuated this kind of behavior is still in place." 

Later on Jake Tapper’s The Lead, former Fox News contributor Sarah Palin, who visited Trump at the White House the night prior, agreed that the culture at Fox News has to change.

“The key there is you said I 'used to be with Fox' — I used to be with Fox,” she stressed to the CNN anchor. “A corporate culture there obviously has to change. Women should not ever have to put up with some kind of intimidating work space. At the same time, if a woman believes that she is being intimidated or harassed, she needs to stand up and do something about it, not stick around for a paycheck for years and years and years and then after the fact complain about what she went through.”

She added, “As a strong woman, we should feel more empowered than that and we should take a stand and get out of the place or blow the whistle on whoever is the perpetrator doing the bad stuff so that the culture will change.”

Palin, an outspoken Trump supporter, left Fox News when her contract wasn’t renewed in June 2015. When Tapper asked if she experienced anything herself while at the news channel, she would only say, “I wouldn’t put up with anything that would be perceived as intimidating or harassing.”