NEW YORK — Former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson is suing the network’s CEO and chairman Roger Ailes, alleging a pervasive practice of sexual harassment.
Carlson, 50, was removed from her 2 p.m. newscast “The Real Story” in late June. The lawsuit says she was terminated for “refusing Ailes’ sexual advances.”
Carlson’s attorney Nancy Erika Smith, of the firm Smith Mullin, told CNNMoney Wednesday that Ailes’ harassment was “very consistent and very pervasive.”
Representatives for Ailes did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Smith emphasized that Carlson is only suing Ailes, not the network.
Still, the lawsuit is a bombshell that could have serious consequences for Fox. In the tight-knit, ultra-competitive television business, there was immediate speculation about whether other women at Fox would come forward to back up Carlson’s claims.
Ailes, now 76, founded Fox News in 1996 and has run the network with an iron fist ever since, with employees famously loyal to him. He signed another multi-year contract last year.
Carlson’s lawsuit alleges that Ailes repeatedly “injected sexual and/or sexist comments” into conversations; made “sexual advances by various means;” and said to her last September, “I think you and I should have had a sexual relationship a long time ago and then you’d be good and better and I’d be good and better.”
The suit says Carlson requested the September meeting because she was seeking to “bring to an end the retaliatory and discriminatory treatment she had endured.”
Instead, the suit alleges, the “retaliation” continued through June, when her contract was not renewed.
The eight-page lawsuit, filed with the Superior Court of New Jersey on Wednesday, alleges that Ailes violated the New York City Human Rights Law.
Asked whether Carlson has any recordings or other evidence, Smith said, “We are very confident in our evidence. We have very powerful evidence. But we don’t want to discuss what the evidence is outside of the courtroom.”
Smith said that the 2014 book about Fox and Ailes, “The Loudest Voice in the Room,” by Gabriel Sherman, contains other accusations of sexual harassment by Ailes.
“The law is very clear that other victims’ testimony is relevant in a sexual harassment case… We may be asking these other women to testify,” she said.
At the same time the lawsuit was announced, Carlson wrote on Facebook, “As you may have heard, I am no longer with Fox News. I value your support and friendship, especially now, so please stay in touch with me.”
In a statement, she called the lawsuit “a difficult step to take,” but said, “I had to stand up for myself and speak out for all women and the next generation of women in the workplace.”
Carlson joined Fox News in 2005 after five years at CBS. She hosted the channel’s flagship morning show “Fox & Friends” before being reassigned to the 2 p.m. hour.
In the complaint, Carlson’s attorneys also spelled out what they said was “sexist and condescending” treatment that she experienced at the hands of another coworker: her longtime “Fox & Friends” co-host Steve Doocy.
Doocy, the complaint alleges, “engaged in a pattern and practice of severe and pervasive sexual harassment of Carlson, including, but not limited to, mocking her during commercial breaks, shunning her off air, refusing to engage with her on air, belittling her contributions to the show, and generally attempting to put her in her place by refusing to accept and treat her as an intelligent and insightful female journalist rather than a blond female prop.”
In response to Carlson’s complaints about Doocy, Ailes allegedly called Carlson a “man hater” and “killer,” and admonished her to “get along with the boys.”
That episode happened in 2009, according to the complaint. In 2013, the complaint claims, Ailes moved Carlson from the morning show to the 2 p.m. hour as “further retaliation for her refusal to accede to sexual harassment and retaliation.”
Carlson’s program “The Real Story” has been hosted by fill-ins in the days since her contract was not renewed.