Warning: This article may be triggering for victims of sexual harassment and misconduct.
There are times when we are grateful for talented screenwriters who can shape the mundane events of history and everyday life into more dramatic stories we can enjoy in movie form. Then there are times when no writer could ever come up with the crazy stuff that happened in real life. What went down at Fox News in 2016 (and everything leading up to it) most definitely falls into the latter category, thanks to its new film adaptation Bombshell.
From the early behavior of Roger Ailes (he denied all allegations of sexual misconduct until his death in 2017) through his ouster from the conservative network, and everything in between, the true story behind Bombshell is as wild as it is horrifying. Here, we lay out some of the events (because honestly, we can't possibly list them all) in chronological order.
Roger Ailes worked as a producer and then executive producer for The Mike Douglas Show in Philadelphia. Three women told New York magazine in 2016 that when they were young models (as young as 16), they interviewed with Ailes to appear on the show. In closed rooms, he told them that they would only get the job if they had sex with him.
A TV producer told New York that she met with Ailes in his apartment in New York City for what she thought was a job interview. He said she would have to sleep with him and "anyone I tell you to" to make it in the TV business in the city. She ran away.
After offering TV producer Shelley Ross a job with The Tomorrow Show at NBC, where Ailes was an executive producer, he allegedly suggested they form a "sexual alliance." She reported the exchange to NBC lawyers, and Ailes apologized.
While interviewing producer Randi Harrison for a job at NBC, Ailes reportedly told her she could earn $100 a week more if she had sex with him whenever he wanted.
Ailes worked on the reelection campaign for President Ronald Reagan. Around that same time, a former model/actress said she met with Ailes in a locked office for what she thought was an audition. She read a script in front of a camera, and then says that Ailes asked her to try on a garter belt and stockings. She says "something sexual took place" that she has blocked from her memory.
Kellie Boyle, a former Republican National Committee field adviser claimed that because she refused Ailes' proposition after a dinner, she was blackballed from a job with the RNC.
Former Republican campaign worker Laurie Luhn met with Ailes for dinner and career advice. He allegedly kissed her and handed her a wad of cash, $200-300 she said. From then on, she became a research assistant for him.
Luhn claims Ailes asked her to put on a garter and stockings and to dance for him on camera. He is supposed to have told her he would keep the tape in a safe deposit box, and continued to ask her to visit him for sexual encounters.
Rupert Murdoch hired Ailes to become CEO of Fox News. Ailes hired Luhn as a booker for the network, and she reportedly continued to meet him in hotel rooms periodically.
Andrea Mackris, a former producer on The O'Reilly Factor, sued Bill O'Reilly and Fox for sexual harassment. O'Reilly denied the claims. She settled out of court for $9 million.
Gretchen Carlson became a co-host of Fox & Friends.
Megyn Kelly, a lawyer-turned-correspondent working in Fox News' Washington bureau, allegedly received unwanted advances from Ailes at this time.
Correspondent Rudi Bakhtiar alleged that when she rejected colleague Brian Wilson's advances, she was eventually fired from the network while Wilson was promoted. At the time, Wilson told the New York Times, "I take strong exception to the facts of the story as you have relayed it to me, period. Beyond that, I will have no further comment." Bakhtiar settled with Fox in mediation.
Carlson complained to a supervisor that co-host Steve Doocy was reportedly condescending and sexist toward her on and off the air, mocking her and shushing her. She claimed Ailes mocked her complaint.
When Andrea Tantaros became host of The Five, execs allegedly instruct her not to wear pants so that Ailes could see her legs.
Fox News employee Juliet Huddy filed claims that Fox Jack Abernethy and O'Reilly had sexually harassed her. She said she was fired from the O'Reilly factor after refusing the host's advances. The accused vehemently denied her claims.
After suffering a nervous breakdown and leaving Fox, Luhn reached a settlement with Fox for $3.15 million. It included nondisclosure agreements.
Carlson is removed from Fox & Friends and given an afternoon show of her own.
Tantaros was moved from The Five to a lower rated show shortly after allegedly refusing Ailes' advances.
Ailes allegedly implied to contributor Julie Roginsky that he would hire her to host The Five during closed-door meetings in which she claims he talked about sex and looked down her top. She settled a lawsuit for this in 2017.
June 23, 2016
July 6, 2016
Carlson filed her sexual harassment suit against Ailes. She claimed he told her to turn around so he could look at her from behind, urged her to wear sexy outfits on air, and suggested that she needed to sleep with him. She claimed she was fired for refusing to do so. Other Fox News employees anonymously allege to the Huffington Post that they'd received similar treatment from Ailes. Some said they had expected a suit from Carlson ever since she was ousted from Fox & Friends.
July 7, 2016
Carlson's lawyer said at least 10 other women had come to her with their stories of harassment already. Ailes finally released a statement denying them all. Meanwhile, parent company 21st Century Fox hired an outside law firm to review the matter.
July 18, 2016
July 19, 2016
July 21, 2016
Ailes announced his resignation. He received $40 million, the rest of the money due to him under his contract.
July 29, 2016
August 22, 2016
Tantaros filed a suit against Fox, claiming Ailes, O'Reilly, and Scott Brown, among others, had all harassed her. Brown denied the claims. In the suit, she claimed the network was "a sex-fueled, Playboy Mansion-like cult, steeped in intimidation, indecency, and misogyny." She went on to represent herself in court and a judge threw out her suit in 2018.
September 6, 2016
November 16, 2016
Kelly's memoir, Settle for More, revealed the extent of her allegations against Ailes. The book claims he would comment about her bras and that he once tried to grab her and kiss her on the lips. She claims he threatened to destroy her if she told anyone.
Former anchor Laurie Dhue settled for more than $1 million after alleging harassment by O'Reilly and Ailes.
May 18, 2017
Ailes died at age 77 as a result of a subdural hematoma eight days after falling and hitting his head in his home in Palm Beach, Florida.
April 19, 2017
After the New York Times uncovered the fact that Fox News had paid out $13 million to settle harassment lawsuits against O'Reilly and advertisers began pulling out of his show, Fox announced his departure from the channel. In October, the Times discovered that Fox had paid another woman, legal analyst Lis Wiehl, $32 million to settle claims against O'Reilly.
May 1, 2017
After a few months as co-president of Fox News (with Abernethy), Bill Shine, a co-defendant in a number of the harassment lawsuits, gets the boot as well. He became Trump's deputy chief of staff for a hot minute before leaving to advise his 2020 campaign.