Ronan Farrow apologizes after comments on Fox's handling of sexual harassment angered former employees
Posted October 23, 2019 6:26 p.m. EDT
CNN — Ronan Farrow, the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has extensively reported on sexual misconduct in the media industry, apologized on Wednesday for recent comments he made about how Fox News dealt with claims of harassment in the workplace.
"Let me be clear: I in no way intended to suggest that networks like Fox have fully addressed these issues," Farrow told CNN. "One of the lessons of the past few years is that there's still a long way to go. I've heard what these women have said and join with them in the hopes that people in power are listening."
"I'm sorry if my comments implied anything else — it certainly wasn't my intention," Farrow added.
The apology came after a group of four women who previously settled claims with Fox News wrote Farrow a letter in which they skewered him for the way he characterized the network's handling of its sexual harassment scandal.
Appearing on Fox News last Thursday to discuss his new book "Catch and Kill," Farrow criticized how NBC News has responded to claims of sexual harassment.
As he called out NBC News, Farrow mentioned that Fox News dealt in recent years with its own problems related to sexual harassment and settlements. He told anchor Bret Baier that the network "has done a great job of confronting some of the issues" it has faced.
While Fox News eventually made leadership changes after the sexual harassment allegations came to light, NBC News, which has pushed back against some of Farrow's reporting, has left its leadership team in place. After his comment about Fox News' handling of its scandal, Farrow said "now there's a tough conversation at NBC."
But Farrow's comments bothered four former Fox News employees who have settled claims with the network. And they sent him a letter on Wednesday expressing their dismay.
"While we appreciate the work you have done to expose and explore sexual assault, harassment and retaliation in the news and entertainment industries, we are curious as to the basis of your effusive praise of Fox News for its response to the revelations by women who described the toxic work environment they faced," the former employees wrote to Farrow.
The letter was signed by Juliet Huddy, Julie Roginsky, Tamara Holder, and Diana Falzone. Huddy, Roginsky, and Holder have all settled claims of sexual harassment with 21st Century Fox, the former parent company of Fox News. Falzone settled a claim of gender discrimination with the company.
"As you surely know, many of those women could not be interviewed for your book about the abuses they experienced and continue to experience because they are bound by onerous non-disclosure agreements that media companies demand in connection with settlements," the former employees wrote.
They added in their letter, "A company that has done a great job confronting these issues would not prohibit women from speaking the truth."
The letter ended with the women asking Farrow how he concluded that Fox News had done a "great job" confronting issues of sexual harassment.
"You have done important work in exposing the toxicity women face at the hands of powerful men and their enablers at major networks and other prominent outlets," the letter said. "Nevertheless, because many women continue to be silenced and blackballed from the industry simply for having the courage to demand that they be treated professionally and with respect, your backslapping of Fox News seems more like backsliding."
In a private email he sent to the four women, which was provided to CNN Business, Farrow noted that he has "widely called attention to Fox as one of the most egregious examples of the cultural problems and corporate practices that perpetuate and conceal harassment in the media."
Farrow said that his comment "was meant to call out those problems, and the mention of steps taken to confront them was offered in the context of a discussion of other media companies' refusal to make leadership changes."
Farrow pointed out that Fox News "did remove some of its most problematic figures," adding that he "in no way meant to imply that the problems or gone, or that there isn't tremendous work to be done."
Falzone said that she spoke by phone with Farrow on Wednesday after his emailed response to the group's letter.
"I expressed my concerns regarding the treatment of women who have come forward to object to harassment and discrimination in the media workplace, and now I believe we are on the same page about his intentions to do better moving forward," Falzone said.
In separate statements, Holder, Huddy, and Roginsky criticized how Farrow privately responded to their letter in his email. Holder said it "did not articulate anything or clarify his comments with specificity." Huddy said she is an "admirer" of Farrow's, but said she thought he "failed to call out" Fox News adequately.
And Roginsky said she too does "very much respect" Farrow's work, but that if he is "applied that NBC has kept executives in place," he should "be equally appalled that other networks have done the same in keeping executives in place who have enabled similarly egregious behavior."
In a statement, a spokesperson for Fox News stressed the changes the network has made in recent years, telling CNN Business, "Since the 2016 departure of Roger Ailes, Fox News has worked tirelessly to completely change the company culture."
"Over the past three years, we have created an entirely new reporting structure, more than tripled the size of our HR footprint, started quarterly company meetings and mentoring events as well as implemented a zero tolerance policy regarding workplace misconduct for which we engage outside independent firms to handle investigations," the statement added. "No other company has implemented such a comprehensive and continuous overhaul. We are incredibly proud of our team and will continue to emphasize transparency across all Fox News Media."