Backstory: Eric Bolling’s scandal is the latest in serial sexual harassment at Fox News

On Friday, Huffington Post exclusively reported that popular Fox News host, Eric Bolling sent unsolicited photos of his privates to three female former co-workers via text message years ago.

Huffington Post investigated the claims by speaking to three women who received the photo and they confirmed its content. Over 10 other sources also revealed to the online news site that they had either seen the photo or heard about it from the recipients.

Bolling, who co-hosts new program ‘The Specialist’ on the network, reacted to the accusations first by claiming to have no recollection of such communication. Through his lawyer, Bolling put out a deliberate response that did not necessarily point to a denial of the claims. “Mr. Bolling recalls no such inappropriate communications, does not believe he sent any such communications, and will vigorously pursue his legal remedies for any false and defamatory accusations that are made”, Bolling’s lawyer Michael J. Bowe said.

In a tweet he shared on Monday, Bolling said, “Overwhelmed by all the support I have received. Thank you I look forward to clearing my name asap”. This came after Fox News announced his suspension alongside the launch of an investigation to determine the facts and the existence of any truth in the allegations. A Fox News spokesperson who spoke to POLITICO said, “We are investigating this matter, and all claims will be taken into account”. He noted that the investigation will be carried out by the Paul Weiss law firm, the same company that carried out investigations that saw the network’s founder and former CEO, Roger Ailes resign from the network.

Within Fox News, sexual harassment scandals like this one have almost become commonplace and it started from the top of the ladder in 2016 when the man who set up the company in 1996 was forced to quit after multiple female employees accused him of sexually harassing them.

In July last year, former Fox News host, Gretchen Carlson made her first public allegation claiming the network terminated her contract because she “refused Ailes’ sexual advances”. Ailes immediately denied the claims saying Carlson was only trying to retaliate because her contract with the network wasn’t renewed. But in less than two weeks, another prominent host, Megyn Kelly raised similar accusations that now forced Ailes to resign.

During the internal probe into the scandal, former event planner with the company, Laurie Luhn told investigators that she was harassed by Ailes over the course of 20 years and Fox News was aware of it. Luhn said she was “psychologically tortured”. In that same period, highly famed anchor, Bill O’Reilly in solidarity with Ailes said on air, “If somebody is paying you a wage, you owe that person or company allegiance. If you don’t like what’s happening in the workplace, go to human resources or leave” but it was only a matter of time before his own actions caught up with him.

In April 2017, Fox News was reported to have settled five sexual harassment lawsuits amounting to $13 million against Bill O’Reilly between 2002 and the time of that reporting. O’Reilly, after his dismissal from the network, describes the allegations as “completely unfounded claims” that were not uncommon among people who live in public eye.

O’Reilly’s was one major scandal that drew widespread attention and even protests in some parts of the US. This was a damning and career-threatening case against the man that is famed as “the king of cable news”. Even President Donald Trump weighed in but in the accused’s defense saying, “I don’t think Bill did anything wrong”.

Last month, Fox Business Network suspended host, Charles Payne over related sexual allegations they described as “professional misconduct”. A guest on the network said she was blacklisted because she ended a 3-year romantic affair with Payne, who vehemently denied the claims saying, “Not surprising media outlets that hate President Trump most put out most twisted stories on me”. It was a response similar to those of other accused staffers despite the barrage of evidence against them.

Fox News has been largely criticised for the spate of sexual harassment claims that beset the network, not only for the volume but for bad handling whenever they arose. Some pundits are of the opinion that the network, rather than take decisive action against erring staff, covered up and even enabled the acts.

The network may leverage on Bolling’s scandal to rewrite its own dirty history or go on to prove critics right.

 

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