More bad news at Fox News

Fox News has settled yet another sexual harassment lawsuit.

Emily Steel of the New York Times:

... Tamara N. Holder has said that the network executive tried to force her to perform oral sex on him in February 2015 when the two were alone in his office, according to interviews with four people briefed on her account, and documents that detail her claims. Ms. Holder did not immediately report the episode to the company or the police, fearing that doing so would ruin her career, interviews and documents show.

Ms. Holder reported her allegations to Fox News last fall. The network investigated her claims, and the executive, Francisco Cortes, the vice president for Fox News Latino, was terminated, according to two people familiar with the matter. Ms. Holder left Fox News after her contract expired on January 1, 2017.

Jay Sanchez, a lawyer for Mr. Cortes, said Wednesday night in an email: "I am presently considering Mr. Cortes' legal options." Multiple attempts to reach Mr. Cortes by phone, by email, on social media and in person for comment were unsuccessful.

In a rare public disclosure on Wednesday, Fox News released a joint statement with Ms. Holder saying that in September 2016 she "reported an incident of sexual assault at Fox News headquarters from the prior year."

"Immediately after Ms. Holder notified Fox News of the alleged incident, the company promptly investigated the matter and took decisive action, for which Ms. Holder thanks the network," the statement continued. "Fox News is grateful to Ms. Holder for her many contributions during her tenure at the network and wishes her continued success."

In an email, Ms. Holder said: "Yes, I was sexually assaulted. Immediately after I told the company where I worked about the incident, it promptly investigated the matter and took action, which I appreciate."

If true, this was stunningly repulsive behavior by Cortes, far worse than the complaints heard in public regarding Roger Ailes, who left the network he founded and guided after a $20-million settlement was awarded to Gretchen Carlson.  Note that a settlement usually does not indicate that all the charges made in the lawsuit are acknowledged as true by the defendant.

Still, the rash of settlements suggest that what the NYT reports about the newsroom culture at FNC probably is true:

The downfall of Mr. Ailes, the former chairman and chief executive, had exposed a newsroom culture that many women there called hostile and demeaning. 21st Century Fox ordered an internal investigation and stated publicly that "behavior that disrespects women" would not be tolerated.

As a former professor and management consultant who did a lot of work on organizational cultures, I am very curious about what Fox News is doing to change this culture.  The network has a business strategy that uses female beauty as a selling point for its products.  Therefore, it has executives who pay a lot of attention to female beauty.  They tend to be great fans of female beauty.

It takes willpower to resist the allure of female beauty if you are a heterosexual male.  That can come from personal morality, as it often does.  But organizations of any considerable size include a cross-section of humanity, and human nature has its way.  So organizations need to impose external sources of willpower.  This involves much more than policies and penalties, if they want a true change in culture.  But can anyone imagine Bill O'Reilly sitting through a mandatory sensitivity training led by feminists?  It could be a ratings bonanza, but it would not produce a good outcome. 

Ms. Holder is no stranger to lawsuits, having been named in one.

I respect Fox News and am grateful for its voice.  But it is not a perfect company.  I wish it the best in moving forward and solving this problem.

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