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Fox News senior meteorologist Janice Dean now says that she has “the best job of [her] life.” But, in a new book out Tuesday, she makes clear that the man who hired her, late Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, at times acted inappropriately and sexually suggestive toward her.
Dean, who escaped to Fox News after a nightmare stint working for radio host Don Imus, recalled her first meeting with Ailes: “He told me I was very funny — and good TV. He liked that I had a ‘naughty’ side. Was I like that in real life?”
Her next meeting with Ailes, before she had been offered the job, was at the Renaissance Times Square hotel at 3 p.m. in the afternoon, which she thought was a “strange meeting place.”
“We made small talk,” Dean wrote in Mostly Sunny. “He asked how I was and said I looked nice and that he wanted to get to know me a little better. After our wine was brought to the table, he reached over and grabbed my hand. And held it. Like a date. Did I have a boyfriend? … Was it serious? He was still holding my hand awkwardly across the table and asked if I had thought about him after our last meeting.”
The meeting left Dean “bewildered,” she wrote. She later shared the story with her therapist, her now-husband and several of her friends, including her former colleague Megyn Kelly. “We shared our Roger Ailes stories years before the Gretchen Carlson lawsuit,” she wrote of the July 2016 legal action that ended Ailes’ tenure at Fox News.
Things got worse when Ailes called to offer Dean a job. “So, how are you at phone sex?” he asked her. “WHAT!? Did I hear him right?” she wrote. “Did he ask me how I was at phone sex? My comedic instinct kicked in and I treated it like a joke. ‘I’M TERRIBLE!'” Ailes responded, “Really? You don’t seem like you’d be terrible. You’re a little naughty. I see that side of you. You’ve played phone sex with your boyfriends before, right? Let me hear what you’d say to him … like if I was your boyfriend.”
Dean then explained to her readers why, after Ailes’ “inappropriate and wrong” behavior, she ended up taking the job. “The truth is, I never really thought he was serious,” she wrote. “I never thought I was in danger or he would try anything. … When I look back at the meetings I would have with Roger in his office, I never felt he was going to do anything physical with me. There was one time where I went to give him a kiss on the cheek and he moved his face so that my mouth ended up close to his.”
“He was definitely inappropriate,” Dean wrote of Ailes. “He liked to curse, and he had a crude sense of humor. I remember him making comments on several occasions about how I should never get married. The sex was boring afterward. I would always try to change the subject or make a joke.”
She said that Ailes had to be the first one thanked in the acknowledgements section in the back of the series of children’s books she wrote. “He was the king,” she wrote. “Fox was his kingdom.”
Dean said she tried out anchoring but decided against pursuing it. “Maybe in the back of my mind I felt it might’ve led to more uncomfortable situations,” she wrote.
While she says Ailes never touched her, Dean wrote, “He definitely did cross the line, and now we know he did some awful things to some of the women employees, many of whom will never tell their stories because of nondisclosure agreements. But Mr. Ailes had another side to him. He could be kind and helpful. People who worked for him loved him. He was loyal to the people he hired.”
“After my first year at Fox, my meetings with him in his office became less frequent,” Dean wrote. “He left me alone. I just thought maybe he had liked me in a romantic way but thankfully it had worn off. I was relieved he had lost interest and I could focus on the job I was hired to do.”
When Dean was diagnosed with MS, “a close friend who was in the business told [her] not to tell anyone at Fox because that would probably be the end of my career,” but she told Ailes and he was “very kind and understanding.”
Dean recounts the moment she first heard about Carlson’s lawsuit. After her co-worker forwarded her the New York Times’ story, she sent it to Kelly, who had not read it. “Holy shit,” Kelly wrote back to her.
Dean and Kelly are close friends and had talked to each other about their experiences with Ailes. “Our experiences are similar in that we were both targeted in the first year of our new jobs, and then Roger stopped the inappropriate behavior and we both went on to have good working relationships with him,” she wrote. “Please note that does not make it right, but back then it was how we navigated.”
Carlson had learned of Dean’s experience with Ailes and “asked [her] if [she] knew of anyone else Roger had crossed a line with.”
“In our conversations over the years, Gretchen never told me anything had happened to her,” Dean wrote. But, she said other Fox News employees had confided their “Roger stories” in her.
After the news of her lawsuit broke, neither Dean nor Kelly “thought Gretchen had a chance against Roger. Still, Megyn and I started to think about all the women that this COULD have happened to.”
Dean revealed that she was not initially asked to participate in the external investigation that law firm Paul Weiss had been contracted to conduct into Carlson’s allegations. “We knew that I could easily lose my job going against Roger,” she wrote of her conversations with her husband. “None of us believed he would be fired.”
She recounted having a panic attack before eventually speaking to the lawyers, having to be consoled and encouraged by her husband and Kelly. “This had never happened before,” she wrote. “I couldn’t talk. … I was freezing and shaking. I couldn’t calm down.”
After hearing from Kelly that “too few women” were speaking with the lawyers, Dean “did something very risky. I reached out to my female co-workers who I knew had a Roger story and asked if I could come to see them in their offices to talk. One by one I told them my experiences with the boss, how even though I was risking my career I told the lawyers at Paul Weiss my uncomfortable experiences with Mr. Ailes. If we all went in and shared our stories, it could make a difference in the future for women at this company and elsewhere. We could make a change somehow. … Some didn’t want to speak out for fear of retaliation, but some of them at great risk and peril to their careers and livelihoods risked everything and did tell their stories.”
A Fox News spokesperson provided the following statement to The Hollywood Reporter: “Since Roger Ailes’ near immediate removal from the network following an external investigation by an outside law firm, Fox News has undergone a massive reorganization and cultural shift towards an open and transparent environment. The entire Human Resources department was overhauled, mandatory sexual harassment training was instituted, additional methods of reporting inappropriate conduct were added and communication with employees was increased tenfold. We operate under a zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment, and unlawful harassment of any form, which has been strictly enforced.”
Dean praised the changes that parent company 21st Century Fox has made since then. “I’m optimistic for the future of our employees,” she wrote, saying that Ailes’ successor, Suzanne Scott, “has been incredibly supportive” of her.
In her book, Dean described Imus, who later worked for Fox Business Network as a morning show host, as chauvinistic, insulting and threatening. “I learned quickly never to say hello or acknowledge Imus when he walked in,” she wrote. “You would be at risk of being attacked or yelled at. Everyone was on alert when he was in the building. He also carried around a gun with him and let everyone know he had it on him at all times.”
Dean continued: “One morning he came out of the on-air studio, stopped, and pointed his gun a few feet away from the back of the traffic reporter’s head. And snickered to himself. … Sometimes he would take the bullets out in front of us one by one and say, ‘This one could be for Bernie. This one could be for Lou, and JANICE …’ Yes, he named the bullets after us. How sweet.”
According to Dean’s book, Imus threatened a Jewish college intern who had stared at him. “Imus knew right away the kid was in awe, and yelled, ‘Stop looking at me, you fucking moron. I’ll shoot that fucking beanie off your head so fast, it’ll make your head spin.”
In addition to insulting her appearance, Imus forced Dean into uncomfortable positions. “One day he was promoting an electric toothbrush on the air and decided it would be funny if I came in and he turned on the toothbrush and I would fake an orgasm,” she wrote.
Dean spares no details in the book and includes critical anecdotes about some of her colleagues. An unnamed individual who served as the “VP of programming” at the time objected when she revealed a pregnancy by switching from a weather map to a sonogram screen. “I’m all for pregnant ladies on TV, but I don’t need to see a sonogram of their fetus in my face,” the person said on a call.
She also described an unfunny joke made by a “female on-air talent who had three children.” While Dean walked down a hallway, this woman said, “BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP! Everybody back up! The WIDE LOAD is coming through!”
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