The strange case of Carlson v. Kelly

Roger Ailes might have gotten a kick out of this report from the Washington Post. Gretchen Carlson and Megyn Kelly are locked in a proxy war over, in effect, which of the two women merits top billing in “Bombshell,” the movie about Ailes’s downfall at Fox News. (I say “proxy war” because the battle is being waged by their friends).

The Post’s Paul Fahri reports:

There’s an argument brewing over who deserves credit for triggering Ailes’s demise, one of the major events preceding the start of the #MeToo movement.

The movie. . .has provoked crossfire between Carlson’s and Kelly’s camps about how the Ailes saga actually came about. Carlson’s supporters say the movie insufficiently credits Carlson and inflates Kelly’s role; people close to Kelly counter that it more or less accurately portrays the real sequence of events.

It’s indisputable that both women played an important role. As Fahri points out:

Carlson, a former host of “Fox & Friends,” filed her now-famous harassment suit against Ailes in early July 2016. Within two weeks, Ailes, who had built Fox News into a money-gushing powerhouse, was gone in a corporate coup engineered by two bitter Ailes rivals, Lachlan and James Murdoch, the sons of Fox co-founder Rupert Murdoch.

As for Kelly:

[S]he told Lachlan Murdoch about Ailes days after Carlson filed her suit and later spoke to investigators hired by the Murdochs to look into complaints. . .Several women interviewed for this story say Kelly was instrumental in getting them to tell their own stories to the investigator.

In short, without Carlson’s lawsuit, there probably would have been no investigators to talk to and, presumably, nothing to spur Kelly to come forward with her grievance. Without Kelly coming forward, Carlson probably would have lacked the corroborating evidence that did Ailes in.

As portrayed by the Post’s Fahri, the dispute seems to center on which woman was more courageous. In support of Carlson, one former colleague says:

There was one woman who jumped off the cliff without a parachute, who had very little chance of success and almost a guarantee of failure . . . and that woman was Gretchen Carlson.

True. But Carlson had already been fired by Fox News. She had little to lose, and arguably less than Kelly, who was still an employee of the news network, albeit one of its stars.

Carlson’s attorney goes after Kelly by name:

Megyn Kelly never publicly revealed that she was harassed by Roger Ailes while Gretchen’s case was pending. She never expressed any support for Gretchen, either. It was Gretchen who took the leap. To portray it otherwise is just wrong.

(Emphasis added)

But Kelly revealed Ailes’s harassment to investigators, and that, coupled with Carlson’s suit, was enough to end Ailes’s reign. There was no need to go public.

The real question isn’t who deserves credit. Both women do in something like equal measure.

Both acted admirably. I stop short of saying heroically, though. It doesn’t take a hero to sue someone who has fired you or to give accurate testimony to investigators.

The real question is whether “Bombshell” presents the facts of the case correctly. I haven’t seen the movie (and won’t); nor do I know all the facts.

I can read between the lines, though. Carlson’s camp says the movie is inaccurate. The best Kelly’s camp can say is that it is “more or less” accurate.

We’re talking about Hollywood here, so “more or less” accurate is the best case scenario.

Responses