After paying out millions of dollars to settle claims of sexual harassment in the workplace, and facing an investigation in New York over payments made to settle cases involving former Fox News boss Roger Ailes, 21st Century Fox has been holding seminars for its employees around the country that focus on how to prevent harassment, discrimination and retaliation in the workplace.
What shocked employees who have sat through the presentations, including one last week at the Fox Studio in Los Angeles, is that part of the presentation by Human Resources executives is the infamous Access Hollywood tape in which Donald Trump is seen bragging to anchor Billy Bush about sexually harassing and groping women without their consent.
“There was an audible gasp in the room, like, ‘Can you believe this is happening?’” one Fox employee who was not identified told The Hollywood Reporter.
The HR people were using the 2005 clip of Trump and Bush as an example of bad behavior in a workplace environment. In the video, Trump boasts that because of his fame he can do anything he wants to women including grabbing them “by the pussy” and forcibly kissing them.
Just before Trump and Bush were joined by actress Adrianne Zucker, Trump told Bush, “I’ve got to use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her. You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful – I just start kissing them.”
Trump later apologized and wrote it off as “locker room talk.”
The use of the Access Hollywood video last week was especially awkward because it came on the heels of a New York Times story which revealed Fox has paid out over $13 million to settle sexual harassment claims against Fox News star Bill O’Reilly.
Even as dozens of advertisers were abandoning O’Reilly’s show, President Trump volunteered an endorsement of O’Reilly. Trump called O’Reilly “a good person” and said in his opinion Fox’s highest rated personality should not have settled with any of those who made claims against him. “I don’t think Bill did anything wrong,” said Trump.
After the five minute Access Hollywood tape was shown near the end of the workplace seminar, an employee joked about whether if they were fired for harassment their defense could be that it was just “locker room talk,” since Trump’s crude remarks had been defended on air by several Fox News personalities including Sean Hannity and Jeanine Pirro after the tape first broke.
The point was made that harassment was not acceptable, a point that was driven home last summer when Fox News uber boss Roger Ailes was forced to resign after allegations were lodged against him by anchor Gretchen Carlson and a parade of other women, who said he had engaged in a pattern of workplace harassment.
It was sickening to see Trump in that Access Hollywood tape during the presidential campaign, and shocking that it was ignored by many women and men who still voted for Trump.
As Fox spends millions more to save O’Reilly and faces possible charges over the payments it made for Ailes, it is no wonder the company controlled by Rupert Murdoch and his family is trying to sensitize workers.
Unfortunately, it is too late to help the women who were harassed or the American people who suffer under a President who – despite his denials – is as crude, insensitive and sexist as ever.