WASHINGTON • Former Fox News host and one-time Miss America Gretchen Carlson has sued Fox News Channel chief executive Roger Ailes for sexual harassment, alleging her ex-boss wrongfully fired her after she rebuffed years of unwanted advances.
Ms Carlson, 50, charged in a lawsuit on Wednesday that Mr Ailes, a former Republican political consultant who built Fox News into the most-watched US cable news channel, took her off the morning show Fox & Friends in 2013 and cut her pay because she refused to have a sexual relationship with him.
Mr Ailes was a consultant for several United States Republican presidents, including Mr George H.W. Bush. He has been a confidant of 21st Century Fox executive co-chairman Rupert Murdoch, who named Mr Ailes founding chief executive of Fox News Channel in 1996.
Mr Ailes said in a statement he would defend himself against "false" and "offensive" allegations.
"This is a retaliatory suit for the network's decision not to renew her contract, which was due to the fact that her disappointingly low ratings were dragging down the afternoon line-up," his statement said.
He added that Ms Carlson had thanked him in a recent book.
Mr Ailes personally intervened when Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump last August made disparaging remarks about another Fox anchor, Ms Megyn Kelly.
The lawsuit filed in New Jersey state court accused the 76-year-old Mr Ailes of wrongfully firing Ms Carlson and before that"ostracising, marginalising and shunning her after making clear to her that these 'problems' would not have existed, and could be solved, if she had a sexual relationship with him".
In her lawsuit, Ms Carlson, who left the network last month, portrays Mr Ailes as a loutish and serial sexual harasser - accusing him of ogling her in his office and calling her "sexy" - and describes a boys' club environment at the network. She also alleges that her Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy treated her as a "blond female prop", refused to engage with her on air and belittled her contributions.
Ms Carlson's lawsuit, which said she was fired on June 23, said her show achieved its highest ratings from October last year to March this year. She is seeking damages for lost compensation, damage to her career and mental anguish.
A Stanford University graduate, Ms Carlson joined Fox News in 2005.
In a statement, 21st Century Fox said: "We take these matters seriously.
"While we have full confidence in Mr Ailes and Mr Doocy, who have served the company brilliantly for over two decades, we have commenced an internal review of the matter."
REUTERS, NEW YORK TIMES