As Her Documentary Launches, Gretchen Carlson Notes ‘Great Strides’ in Harassment Fight

Gretchen Carlson: Breaking the Silence premieres on Lifetime Jan. 14, as Carlson, former Fox News anchor, travels the country to investigate sexual harassment. Carlson also shares her own story, which includes a lawsuit against Roger Ailes, the former CEO and chairman of Fox News who died in 2017.

In the summer of 2016, Carlson filed her lawsuit against Ailes. 21st Century Fox, parent of Fox News, settled the claim for $20 million and issued an apology.

In the fall of 2017, the NY Times portrayed entertainment mogul Harvey Weinstein’s long history of sexual misconduct.

“I think we’ve made great strides,” Carlson told B&C. “It’s a complicated web we’re trying to solve.”

Carlson’s book Be Fierce: Stop Harassment and Take Your Power Back came out in October 2017. She describes the book as a collection of “everywoman stories” related to harassment. She said Lifetime approached with a production deal offer. “Lifetime wanted to capture these everywoman stories and put them on national TV,” said Carlson.

Lifetime shook things up with the documentary Surviving R. Kelly, which debuted Jan. 3. Carlson said Breaking the Silence aims to ride that project’s momentum. “They’re hoping similar changes come out of mine,” she said.

When her Lifetime project was announced last year, Carlson commented, “It has now been confirmed that our voices are amplified and actually get heard when we stand together, and I am proud to partner with Lifetime to make change happen by presenting the heartbreaking, but previously untold, stories of everyday working women. We need to shine a light on the predators and their enablers, rather than ostracizing and blacklisting the innocent victims whose dreams and careers have been destroyed. I’m grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with A+E Networks on this important project.”

Carlson gives Lifetime credit for airing impactful non fiction. “They’re brave enough to do this kind of programming,” she said.

Steve Ascher, VP of A+E Originals, called Carlson “a trusted, courageous journalist and a tireless advocate for women from all walks of life.”

Carlson also tackled sexual harassment in the Epix documentary series America Divided.

She joined Fox News in 2005 and departed before filing her lawsuit in 2016.

After Carlson’s lawsuit, dozens of women came forward with their own accounts of harassment related to Roger Ailes. Carlson calls the lawsuit “the most difficult decision I’ve made in my life,” but one that she never doubted was the right move. “I never had any hesitation about doing what I did,” she added.

The documentary sees Carlson addressing the workplace harassment issues with the victims’ employers, which include McDonald’s and a fire department. “We travel to various cities and demand answers,” she said.

Carlson is pushing for more sophisticated harassment training in the workplace, and the demise of arbitration clauses in employee contracts, which mean the employee cannot sue their employer for harassment. She credits Microsoft for getting rid of the clauses.

Carlson said she wouldn’t mind cloning herself in her efforts to eradicate harassment. “There’s still a tremendous amount of work to be done,” she noted.

Fox News and its culture under Ailes is the topic of multiple TV and film projects. Showtime will air the series The Loudest Voice in the Room, based on Gabriel Sherman’s book, with Russell Crowe playing Ailes. A film project will see Carlson played by Nicole Kidman, according to published reports.

Carlson said she’ll watch. “My only hope with those projects,” she said, “is that they’re accurate.”

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.