Fox News, apart from being a television channel which morphs into state media during Republican administrations, is notorious for its toxic work environment. This reputation only got worse after sexual harassment scandals forced out primetime mainstay Bill O’Reilly and former CEO Roger Ailes. The network is still recovering: earlier this week, Fox News settled for roughly $10 million with about 18 current and former employees who alleged gender and racial discrimination.
But Fox is reportedly trying to slowly transform its company culture, if only in a familiarly shallow and corporate way that doesn’t actually change what made the institution toxic to begin with. Case in point: Suzanne Scott became the network’s first female CEO this week, even though she’s been alleged to have enabled rampant harassment at the company in several lawsuits from former female Fox employees. Last year, Gabriel Sherman (then of New York) reported that when former Fox host Gretchen Carlson filed her lawsuit against Ailes in June 2016, Scott “helped rally Fox women to trash Gretchen & support Ailes publicly.”
Now, Sherman (now of Vanity Fair) reports that some other changes are happening at the company’s offices, ones which have reportedly resulted in “people’s heads blowing up.” What are these oppressive new conditions that have been imposed on the company, you might ask?
According to sources, Fox News recently installed a “meditation room” complete with Muslim prayer rugs in Ollie North’s office in the network’s Washington bureau. (Earlier this month, North left Fox to become the president of the National Rifle Association.) Staffers now attend mandatory sexual harassment training, and the employee intranet includes a section for gender-transition policies and guidelines.
As you might expect, the kinds of people who willingly agree to work for Fox News aren’t taking too kindly to these new developments. “People are terrified. They kicked Ollie North out and put in a prayer room,” a source whined to Vanity Fair. “We’ve got a new trans policy. You’re not allowed to be transphobic.”
No!!!! How does Fox News expect its employees to get through the day without saying even one transphobic thing? Or worse, just stand idly by while the very fabric of America is attacked by meditation rooms?
If you feel the urge to congratulate Fox on this newfound yearning for social justice—which is absolutely not related to its desire to stop paying millions of dollars to settle discrimination suits—just remember that every single day, the network’s programming still peddles the same right wing nonsense it’s been blasting into the brains of old white people for decades. And even though Ailes died last year, the legacy he built at Fox News lives on every time a host, a guest, or the channel’s most faithful viewer says another abhorrent, demeaning thing about people who are not straight, white, and Christian.
As whoever’s been tasked with trying to make Fox a more welcoming place to work is going to find out sooner rather than later, the company’s ethos for its entire history has been to make everyone in its orbit violently ignorant reactionary dickheads. That’s just not something you change overnight.