The recent departure of Bill O’Reilly from Fox News amid accusations of consistent predatory sexual behavior raises several important questions and points to a larger issue. First, the questions:
- We are told that 21st Century Fox, the parent company of Fox News, along with Bill O’Reilly paid approximately $13 million to 5 women based upon sexual harassment and generally obnoxious behavior. Question – What company pays $13 million dollars due to the misconduct of its employee and keeps its employee? Question – what collective brain lapse affected the shareholders of 21st Century Fox that they would allow management to pay out shareholder assets in defense of behavior that can simply be described as lousy if not borderline criminal?
- We are told that upon his departure Bill O’Reilly will be receiving approximately $25 million. Please see Questions 1.
- Since the revelations about O’Reilly and the recently departed and never-lamented Roger Ailes from Fox News, there have been multiple reports that the their behavior was neither incidental or accidental, but represented a pattern of consistent conduct over years. Question – stripped of the defense of ignorance, what explanation do the senior management of Fox News and the senior management and board of directors of 21st Century Fox have for turning a blind eye to ubiquitous slime that too often characterized the experience of women who had the misfortune to work at Fox News. Also, please see Questions 1.
It should be further noted, that before the American media or Americans in general break their arms patting themselves on the back for bearing witness to the humiliation (with payout) of two sexual predators, this country has a very long way to go before American women achieve anything resembling parity and equity. There is a dangerous tendency to label Fox News and its cretin-like behavior as an outlier, although any woman in any profession will attest to the absolute untruth of that line of thinking. And there is even further danger in thinking that the possible resolution of sexual inequity at Fox News means that there are no problems left to solve in these United States.
While any number of corporate leaders have criticized Fox News and 21st Century Fox for their outrageous institutional culture, we are reminded that of the Fortune 500 companies only 27 have female Chief Executive Officers. Or how about the fact that in the 240 year history of the Republic there have been exactly 41 female governors and that as you are reading this column, out of 50 states only 5 have women in the State House.
The disgraceful status of women in America is found in every marketplace. Nationally, women make 80% of what men earn in a compilation of earnings in every sector. And the poverty rate for women far exceeds that of men in this country.
And academia provides no safe haven for women. Every year 5% of female college students are raped and throughout the country over 1.2 million are the victims of rape.
Clearly, this country is not in a time for a victory lap because 21st Century Fox is experiencing a wee bit of penitence and public shaming. The true shame is that the tragedy of the status of women is not viewed as a national crisis. The progress of many women cannot deflect attention from the greater number of women who suffer from violence, poverty, degradation and absence of opportunity every day.
One can only hope that the only good thing in the slime trail left by Bill O’Reilly and Roger Ailes is a public awakening to the fact that there is a lot more work to be done.