Sexual Harassment Allegations Just Put A Spotlight On Fox News. Let’s Turn It On Workplace Culture, Too.


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Walsh’s decision to not file a formal complaint is far more common than the alternative: only 2 percent to 13 percent of people who have been harassed file a formal complaint and only a quarter to a third report it to a colleague. That data, compiled by Lilia Cortina of the University of Michigan and Jennifer Berdahl of the University of British Columbia Sauder School of Business, is a startling reminder that many cases of harassment go under-reported.

Some victims say they fear retaliation, while many are unclear what constitutes legal harassment. An analysis of 86,000 respondents to sexual harassment surveys found that 58 percent of women report experiencing behaviors that are considered sexual harassment, while just 24 percent report experiencing sexual harassment itself.

Via The New York Times:

An analysis of 55 representative surveys found that about 25 percent of women report having experienced sexual harassment, but when they are asked about specific behaviors, like inappropriate touching or pressure for sexual favors, the share roughly doubles.  

O’Reilly’s main defense — that nobody previously reported the crimes via an official channel— is a reminder of the weight that organizations investigating claims place on following protocols that they set up exactly, regardless if those protocols are the best way to help victims.

At the same time, critics say there is no reason Fox News shouldn’t have opened an internal investigation on their own when allegations regarding O’Reilly first surfaced in the early 2000s. O’Reilly settled the lawsuits privately, without the help of Fox News’s parent company 21st Century Fox or its team of lawyers. Fox News’s most public and vigilant response only came after advertisers for O’Reilly’s show — which generated about $446 million in ad revenue between 2014 and 2016 — started fleeing. 

The optics on this are clear: if you want to put pressure on an organization as big as Fox News, you have to target their wallet. Help inside the company is one thing, but social campaigns and external pressure are sometimes the best sources of leverage. Look no further than United Airlines. 

In the wake of The New York Times report, O’Reilly’s rating skyrocketed. Intrigue about whether he would respond to the allegations — “no press is bad press” — improved his ratings while advertisers fled. Instead of tuning in to watch the show, though, people seeking to demonstrate their displeasure would have been wiser to boycott him entirely. Showing solidarity could have gone beyond pressuring advertisers.

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