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Fox News has announced that Suzanne Scott, the company’s president of programming, has been promoted to CEO, a position last held by Roger Ailes, who was fired in 2016 because of sexual harassment claims and died in 2017. Scott’s appointment makes history, as she is the first woman to assume the role and the first woman to take charge of a major cable television network.
While fans of the network are welcoming the promotion of a woman to Fox’s top spot, the move does not come without controversy. Scott spent decades inside Ailes’s inner circle and allegedly enforced a dress code that required women to wear miniskirts, a claim Fox denies.
Former Fox employees have publicly complained about a supposed miniskirt rule. In 2016, Diane Dimond, a former Fox reporter, told The Dana Pretzer Show that “there is a good ol’ boys’ network thing there at Fox. There was when I was there. ... It’s a boys’ shop. You do not complain. You’ve got to wear your skirts short and your heels high, and you’ve got to put lots of makeup on if you’re a woman.”
“I wasn’t into the false eyelashes and the short short skirts,” she went on. “I’m a little older than the rest of them.”
Jedediah Bila, a former Fox contributor, said last year that “I didn’t wear pants because I wasn’t given a pants option. I had to choose skirts.”
Fox News has denied there is a dress code involving miniskirts, pointing out that women including Megyn Kelly, Greta Van Susteren, and Maria Bartiromo have worn pants on air. Scott also refuted the claim that she was involved in enforcing a dress code.
Scott has, however, been named in at least two lawsuits filed by former Fox employees as an enabler of a toxic work culture. In one lawsuit from 2016, former Fox anchor Andrea Tantaros named Scott as contributing to a workplace that “masquerades as [a] defender of traditional family values, but behind the scenes, it operates like a sex-fueled, Playboy Mansion-like cult, steeped in intimidation, indecency, and misogyny.”
In another lawsuit filed by a Fox contributor in 2017, Scott was called out for allegedly trying to rally people against Fox News host Gretchen Carlson, who had accused Ailes of sexual harassment. The suit claims Scott “sought to recruit Fox News employees and contributors to retaliate against Carlson by publicly disparaging her. They characterized this retaliatory onslaught as supporting ‘Team Roger.’” Scott has denied both claims, and both lawsuits were settled.
Promoting a woman may signal a shift at Fox, which has come under fire for its many sexual harassment lawsuits and discrimination settlements. But some don’t see Scott as a model of change. Last year, Scott replaced her boss, Bill Shine, who stepped down amid accusations that he had covered up sexual harassment at Fox News. Scott had been second in command of the network’s programming, but women at Fox News told NPR they were upset with her promotion because she was “a nightmare — just as bad as the rest.” Some even said she was “worse than Shine” when it came to covering up the concerns of Fox’s female employees.
As per a Fox News Channel spokesperson, Scott has undertaken several initiatives in an effort to incite a cultural shift at the company. These include holding meetings with small groups and quarterly company addresses. Scott has also held internal networking events and monthly breakfasts exclusively for women at at the company. All employees must now go through mandatory sexual harassment training and Fox created a workforce and diversity council that works with its human resources department.
Update: Friday, May 18, 2018, 4:50 p.m.
This post has been updated to include statements from Fox News, including refutation of the existence of a ‘miniskirt dress code’ as well as information about Scott’s work to change the company’s internal culture.