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Former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson appeared on Friday’s episode of ABC’s 20/20 in her first TV interview since becoming the center of a media firestorm after coming forward with sexual-assault claims against Roger Ailes.
In a sit-down with ABC News’ Amy Robach, Carlson opened up about numerous accounts of harassment she experienced while starting out in the field of television news as a former Miss America.
She recalled being sexually assaulted by a photographer, who inappropriately touched her while fastening a mic onto her blouse, just months after landing a job at a TV station.
“I’d only been at this job for a few months. I didn’t want to cause any waves,” she told Robach when she was asked why she didn’t report the incident. She admitted she feared she would be seen as a “troublemaker” rather than a “whistleblower.”
Carlson noted that women who wait to come forward with their claims shouldn’t be judged or doubted.
“I don’t think we should judge women if they have waited because look at how we react to women when they finally do come forward,” said Carlson. “They’re accused of making it up. We have to make it a safer environment so that it’s no longer ‘He said, she said,’ but maybe just ‘She said.'”
In the middle of the interview, Carlson stopped to directly ask Robach if she had ever been sexually harassed, to which Robach replied, “I have.”
The former Fox News personality took issue with the theory that certain women are more vulnerable to these experiences and that “stronger” women are able to move on to another job.
“I consider myself to be a pretty damn strong woman, and finding another job is not a realistic way to solve this problem,” she said. “Women should not have to face this in the workplace, period.”
She encouraged other women facing compromising situations to “document” their experiences and noted that oftentimes evidence is needed. She added, “We, as a country, have to come up with a solution for every one of them. That’s what I hope to at least start the discussion on.”
At one point, Carlson got emotional as she read letters other women had written to thank her for taking a stand against Ailes.
“We women need more women like you to speak up about this injustice,” one letter read.
Carlson shed tears as she read another, written by a father: “I can point my daughter to you and tell her, ‘You see what this woman did? It takes courage, but this is what you must do.’ So, thank you. And if possible, I can only hope that sharing this part of your life story will encourage others to stand up.”
When asked by Robach whether she believed she had ultimately won the battle against Ailes, Carlson said she couldn’t say for certain, but “I hope I’ve helped other women to win.”
Carlson was the first woman to publicly accuse Ailes of harassment. She filed a lawsuit against her former boss back in July, asserting she was let go at the network as retaliation for rebuffing his requests for sexual favors. The suit ended in a $20 million settlement in September.
Since then, multiple former Fox News employees have similarly spoken out about the ex-network chief, claiming he made inappropriate sexual advances in the workplace. One of his accusers, former director of booking Laurie Luhn, also shared her story on Friday’s 20/20.
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