From Oxford to Miss America: 6 Little-Known Facts About Gretchen Carlson

Gretchen Carlson - Getty - H 2016
Getty Images

Gretchen Carlson - Getty - H 2016

The former 'Fox & Friends' co-host filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes on Wednesday.

It's only been a day since Gretchen Carlson filed a sexual harassment suit against her former employer, and already the former Fox News anchor is making waves in the news cycle.

In a suit filed Wednesday, Carlson claims she was fired from Fox & Friends as retaliation for rebuffing Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes' sexual advances and that she endured pervasive harassment in the workplace.

The longtime employee, who arrived at Fox News in 2005 and worked at the cable news channel for 11 years, said in the complaint that she and Ailes had a meeting about her contract being up in June of 2016. She claims she rebuffed Ailes' sexual demands during the meeting and nine months later, her career was terminated.

The complaint goes on to reveal that in 2009, she complained to a Fox & Friends supervisor about her co-host Steve Doocy allegedly creating "a hostile work environment" and "refusing to accept and treat her as an intelligent and insightful female journalist rather than a blond female prop."

The complaints allegedly went nowhere, with Carlson claiming that she was called a "man hater" by Ailes. She says she was fired from Fox & Friends in 2013 and reassigned. Most recently, she was leading The Real Story With Gretchen Carlson.

Ailes was quick to fire back on Wednesday, calling Carlson's "defamatory" lawsuit "offensive" and "wholly without merit." The network's parent company, 21st Century Fox, announced that they were launching an internal investigation.

With all eyes on Carlson, here are six surprising facts about the woman behind the lawsuit that show what Fox News is up against.

1. She Was Crowned Miss America in 1989

Competing as Miss Minnesota, Carlson, then a senior at Stanford University, won the Miss America beauty pageant in 1989. Carlson, who is a trained classical violinist and performed Pablo de Sarasate's Ziguenerweisen for her talent portion, said she entered in hopes of conveying that the event is more than a beauty pageant. 

After her win, she said the judges never asked her the most important question. "I wanted them to ask, 'Why do you want to be Miss America?'" she said. "Because I wanted to look right back at them and say, 'Because I am what you need. I am a career woman. I am the role model for the women today. I am not a beauty queen. I go to Stanford, and I have been to Oxford, and I plan to go to Harvard Law School. I have a real talent. I didn't make one up.'"

2. She's a Stanford Graduate and Studied at Oxford

Carlson, who was her high school valedictorian while growing up in Anoka, Minn., studied organizational behavior at Stanford University and graduated with honors. During her college years, she also spent a year studying abroad at Oxford University. In her 2015 memoir, Getting Real, she refers to those three accomplishments as her proudest moments.

After graduation, she worked for local TV stations before landing a hosting gig on the Saturday edition of CBS' The Early Show in 2002. In 2005 she joined Fox News' Fox & Friends, which she co-hosted for the next seven and a half years before announcing her departure in 2013.

3. Her Husband Is Derek Jeter's Agent

Carlson wed Casey Close in 1997, and she and the sports agent are now raising their two children in Greenwich, Conn. Before becoming an agent in 1992, the University of Michigan graduate played college and minor league baseball and was drafted by the New York Yankees. Now, the successful agent and his company, Excel Sports Management, mainly represent Major League Baseball players, including Ryan Howard, Clayton Kershaw and Derek Jeter, whom he began representing in the early 1990s. A 2015 Forbes ranking placed Close at No. 11 among the highest-earning sports agents, estimating his earnings at $31 million.

"Casey is family,'' Jeter has said of Close, who was first a baseball agent at IMG (1992-2006) and CAA (2006-2011) before starting the baseball division at Excel. "We have a relationship that goes beyond player-agent. He's just a good person, you know. Really, we have a lot of the same characteristics. I'm extremely loyal. So is Casey.''

4. She Was Famously Skewered by Jon Stewart and Saturday Night Live

In 2011, Jon Stewart accused Carlson of "dumbing herself down" on The Daily Show. Devoting a segment to Fox & Friends, he showed clips of Carlson talking about Googling words like "ignoramus" and "czar" and said he decided to do some Googling of his own. After discovering that Carlson was a valedictorian, Stanford graduate and trained violinist, he said: "She plays the troubled mom who's just trying to make sense of this crazy, modern country we got ... to connect with an audience that you think sees intellect as an elitist flaw." Adding, "You don't have to stash your IQ in an offshore account."

Saturday Night Live has aired many sketches at Fox & Friends' expense through the years. Carlson was parodied by Vanessa Bayer, and the SNL actress went on to play her replacement, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, in similar fashion after Carlson's departure. Bayer also brought her impression to a skit targeting Carlson on Real Story, which Carlson even featured on her own show.

5. She Played Herself on the Big Screen

Carlson made her acting debut in the 2014 religious thriller Persecuted. The film was widely panned, but she told The Hollywood Reporter that she has a very thick skin. 

"I was Miss America; trust me, I know how to be attacked," she said in 2014. "I was valedictorian in high school; I graduated with honors from Stanford; I studied at Oxford; I was a concert violinist as a child. The reason I rattle that off is because I’m not a dummy. It gets tiring to constantly be the target of criticism. I was used to that after being Miss America, and I’m certainly used to it working at Fox News."

6. She's Spoken Up About Sexual Harassment in the Past

In 2012, Carlson made news when she walked off the Fox & Friends set over a sexist comment made by co-host Brian Kilmeade, who said: "Women are everywhere. We're letting them play golf and tennis now." Though, the next day Carlson returned to the couch and said it was a joke, while Kilmeade said he was "pretty much not sexist." Just last month, Carlson wrote an op-ed on sexual harassment for The Huffington Post, where she spoke out about incidents from when she was younger. "I’ve always considered myself a strong woman, not afraid to stand up for myself, but in the face of sexual harassment I was silent," she wrote. "I had no real power, and I was worried that people would blame me or consider me a troublemaker. Sound familiar?"