A key issue in former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson’s sexual harassment lawsuit against network boss Roger Ailes may be Carlson’s ratings performance when she was host of “The Real Story.”
Variety reports that Carlson’s ratings are under scrutiny after she alleged that she was fired for rejecting Ailes’ sexual advances and Ailes fired back with a statement asserting that she was let go because of low ratings.
Carlson has been speaking out about sexual harassment on the job for some time, as we reported previously.
Ailes released a statement after Carlson filed the suit this week in which he said Carlson’s “disappointingly low ratings were dragging down the afternoon lineup.”
“A comparison of Carlson’s ratings with CNN’s is likely to play some role in the legal fight,” Variety reports, adding: “According to a source familiar with the matter, Fox News’ position is that Carlson’s contract was not renewed because of the ratings performance of her 2 p.m. program ‘The Real Story,’ which vies each day directly with an hour of ‘CNN Newsroom’ anchored by Brooke Baldwin. Carlson’s attorneys dispute that assertion and say Carlson held her own despite little support from Fox News.”
Variety adds: “There is no doubt that Baldwin has given CNN a boost. Since moving in 2014 to host her afternoon program from New York, she has been notching periodic ratings gains in adults 25-54, the news demographic most coveted by advertisers. While Fox News Channel remains the nation’s most-watched cable network, Baldwin has won recent victories in the ad demo.”
Lawyers for Carlson released a statement today rejecting the ratings argument. The statement from attorneys Nancy Erika Smith and Martin Hyman says: “Ailes’ claim that Gretchen Carlson was terminated because of bad ratings is demonstrably false. Gretchen’s total viewership was up 33% year to date and up 23% in the key demographic. After her firing from ‘Fox and Friends’ for complaining about discrimination, Gretchen was moved to a challenging time slot and denied support and promotion. Despite this, she succeeded and was the number-one cable news show in her time slot in total viewers.”