The Old Boys’ Club is dying
In November of 2014, comedian Hannibal Buress told a joke during a set, calling out the decades of rape allegations made against Bill Cosby. At the time, though a lot of people were glad to see the wheels of justice finally turning in favor of the victims, many lamented that it took a man’s voice to accomplish what dozens of women couldn’t. Perhaps that is part of it, but it’s also a matter of timing. It wasn’t just WHO said it, but WHEN. In 2014 we were ready to hear something that had been hushed up and outright ignored for decades. And, once we were listening, more and more women came forward, and the damage was done. A Netflix special, already taped, was sh*t-canned. A show in development was cancelled. Cosby’s legacy was ruined and his career over. The machine that once protected him had turned against him.
Two weeks ago Gretchen Carlson, a former Fox News anchor, filed a lawsuit against Roger Ailes, the head of the network, alleging a history of sexual harassment and painting a picture of a toxic workplace environment steeped in bad behavior typical of the Old Boys’ Club—harassment, intimidation, belittling. At first, the narrative was as to be expected: Carlson was a liar, a schemer, embittered because Fox didn’t renew her contract. This is all just spiteful retaliation from that uppity blonde bitch, said the machine.
But the story quickly grew and took on Ancient Greek proportions, with tales of sons revolting against their father and a coup brewing in one of the most powerful media machines in the world. Rupert Murdoch, who owns News Corp and all its subsidiaries, including Fox News, has long seemed invincible, escaping even the News of the World phone hacking scandal a few years ago. And his right-hand man was Roger Ailes, CEO of Fox News and chairman of Fox TV. Like Cosby, Ailes had previously weathered accusations of misconduct, and seemed invincible, ensconced inside the protective smoking room of the Old Boys’ Club. It did not seem possible Gretchen Carlson could make a dent in Ailes’ armor.
But the world is changing and, as with Cosby, more people are listening. We’re not so quick to dismiss victims. Enter James Murdoch, one of Rupert’s younger sons. This thorough article from The Hollywood Reporter outlines how Murdoch the Younger has leveraged Carlson’s lawsuit to overthrow Ailes and, effectively, his father’s grip on News Corp. James hired an outside investigator to verify Carlson’s claims—a CYA move if ever there was one—and Megyn Kelly, Fox News’ shiniest blonde anchor, backed Carlson’s side.
There are plenty of Fox News douchebags standing in solidarity with Ailes, even as he resigned yesterday—sentient dung heap Sean Hannity and angry balloon Bill O’Reilly might leave Fox News as well (GOOD RIDDANCE). But James Murdoch won round one of this fight, getting Ailes out the door. I’m not expecting a sudden progressive shift at Fox News, but here is a sign that, even in a place like Fox News, where they’re always five minutes away from a “Women: Why do we need them, even?” editorial, the Old Boys’ Club is losing influence. And it didn’t take sixty women this time, it took two.
The world is frightening right now. There’s so much hatred, and we’ve cranked the crazy dial to eleven. This week we’ve watched with bleak, world’s end horror as my country has given a stage to a political party that just nominated a Cheeto soaked in hairspray to be the next president of the United States, on a platform of walls, intolerance, and fear. But at the same time, the very network that has enabled that orange crust to be taken seriously ousted Roger Ailes. Even in the murkiest, most stygian halls of power, there is a sliver of light. The Old Boys’ Club is dying. We just have to hang on long enough to see it well and truly destroyed.
Andrew Toth/ Noam Galai/ Getty Images