Is this what implosion looks like?
In the week since Bill O’Reilly’s ouster from Fox News, the cable news network has struggled to stay on message. The Murdoch family has stated firmly that it is seeking a culture change. But the culture of Fox News seems quite resistant to changing — and the allegations keep piling up. In addition to a network-wide culture of sexual harassment that ended the Fox News careers of both Roger Ailes and O’Reilly, a racial-discrimination lawsuit against comptroller Judith Slater is gaining complainants and is similarly sordid in its details of harassment and employee exploitation. (Among other complaints, the black employees of Fox News allege that they were subjected to arm wrestling white employees for Slater’s amusement.)
But that’s just the legal mess. On-air and in public, the network’s image problem is also a mess. The promised culture change isn’t evident in what the network’s been putting on air — or who they’re promoting to plum timeslots — leading to a smug and typically bigoted debut for Tucker Carlson at 8 p.m. Monday that feinted towards inclusion before reveling in mockery.
Then, on Tuesday’s episode of “The Five” — which moved from 5 p.m. to a primetime 9 p.m. slot, just on Monday — co-host Jesse Watters ended a segment about Germans booing Ivanka Trump by making a literal blowjob joke. “I really liked how she was speaking into that microphone,” Watters said, gesturing cylindrically with one hand and grinning in what most women know as the street harasser’s go-to jerkoff motion.
And on Wednesday, Sean Hannity — one of the network’s longest-running anchors, and its most recognizable personality now that all the rest have left or been booted — took to Twitter for a public meltdown, hinting at a conspiracy to take down Fox News from the inside. The tweets were a response to a report from New York magazine that Bill Shine, the Fox News co-president implicated in covering up or permitting the network’s culture sexual harassment, wasn’t able to get a statement of support from the Murdoch family. Hannity tweeted portentously that if Shine goes, Fox News “as we know it” goes with him.
In Fox News’ first week of attempting to change its corporate culture, it appears to be in complete disarray. Without the casual sexism and race-baiting — without the bluster and bombast — what does this network stand for? Or are these gaffes and goofs and Twitter meltdowns just indications of what many have long suspected — that Fox News is rotten, all the way to its core.