Besides acting as the focal point for nearly every one of President Donald Trump’s waking moments, Fox News has, in recent years, become notorious for the degree to which people on its staff roster who engage in sexual misconduct are enabled, legally protected or have their issues swept under the rug.
The latest employee to allegedly behave so heinously that even Fox News couldn’t ignore it is Kimberly Guilfoyle.
According to a report from the Huffington Post, Guilfoyle’s network announced her departure last week after an internal investigation found that she’d been engaging in a plethora of harmful acts:
“Six sources said Guilfoyle’s behavior included showing personal photographs of male genitalia to colleagues (and identifying whose genitals they were), regularly discussing sexual matters at work and engaging in emotionally abusive behavior toward hair and makeup artists and support staff.”
The report also explains that while Guilfoyle was once thought to be un-fireable at the network because of her close relationship with her mentor Roger Ailes—and because of her newly struck up courtship with Donald Trump Jr., a friend of 21st Century Fox executive chairman Rupert Murdoch—it was in fact Murdoch who signed off on the decision to remove Guilfoyle from her anchor position once the situation became dire.
While it’s clear that Guilfoyle should not be in possession of any sort of professional authority, what’s perhaps most telling about the story of her departure is the considerable energy she put into defending her mentor Roger Ailes within her workplace, even (and especially) after he was accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women.
According to the report, Guilfoyle made it her mission to drum up support for Ailes among her female coworkers, making personal phone calls to many co-anchors and telling them they had to make a choice: come down on the side of “Team Roger” or align themselves with former host Gretchen Carlson, who was suing Ailes for sexual harassment and retaliation. Sources also told the Huffington Post that Guilfoyle had promised Fox News host Meghan McCain a better job on the condition that she make a public statement in support of Ailes.
In response to an email from the Huffington Post with a list of 19 detailed questions, Guilfoyle’s attorney John Singer wrote the following statement:
“Any accusations of Kimberly engaging in inappropriate work-place conduct are unequivocally baseless and have been viciously made by disgruntled and self-interested employees. During her lengthy and decorated tenure with the company, Kimberly was beloved, well-respected, and supportive of anyone she ever met. It’s utterly preposterous that there are those who are nefariously and greedily twisting innocent conversations amongst close friends into much more than what it actually was for financial gain. Kimberly has happily moved onto the next chapter of her life and hopes others will do the same.”
Despite her denial of the accusations, Guilfoyle’s alleged misconduct, and the lengths she reportedly went to attempting to protect Ailes, recall the bombshell investigative stories about Harvey Weinstein written by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey at The New York Times and Ronan Farrow at The New Yorker. Kantor and Twohey reported that “dozens of Mr. Weinstein’s former and current employees, from assistants to top executives, said they knew of inappropriate conduct,” though very few ever confronted him; and Farrow wrote that Weinstein’s female assistants were a crucial part of his routine when it came to convincing his victims to be alone with him.
Farrow interviewed Lucia Evans, formerly an aspiring actress, who accused Weinstein of forcing her to perform oral sex on him. The women in Weinstein’s sphere who set up the meeting between him and Evans made her feel at ease.
“It feels like a very streamlined process,” she told Farrow. “Female casting director, Harvey wants to meet. Everything was designed to make me feel comfortable before it happened. And then the shame in what happened was also designed to keep me quiet.”
Unlike Guilfoyle, Weinstein’s assistants were intimidated into keeping the secret of their boss’s misconduct rather than actively endorsing his behavior, but Guilfoyle subscribed to the belief that if she worked to keep an abusive man in power, she would herself be protected under the umbrella of his patriarchal influence.
Weinstein’s assistants were cowed into silence because they believed in the infallibility of the structures which kept Weinstein so powerful and influential for so long. Their fears were, of course, totally legitimate—he could ruin actresses’ careers at the drop of a hat; so too could he potentially blacklist any employee of his who dared to blow the whistle.
It’s likely that Guilfoyle engaged in abusive behavior because her mentor got away with it for so long, and she assumed that bullying her coworkers into supporting Ailes would prevent the already far-fetched possibility of the chairman and CEO of Fox News getting fired. Of course, Roger Ailes was fired, and so was Harvey Weinstein. Ailes died not long after the allegations against him came to light, and Weinstein is facing a class A-11 felony charge: potentially, life in prison.
The American justice system is fundamentally, critically flawed, and it’ll be a long time before every allegation of sexual misconduct is treated with the same seriousness as a splashy celebrity case. However, Guilfoyle’s departure from her job is proof that anyone who assumes systems of power will always protect abusive men, and uses this belief to inflict further harm on others, will fall from grace when the abusive men do.