Far be it from me to blame the victims. The culture at Fox News was toxic. And the punishment for doing anything but kowtowing was potentially professionally lethal.
Still, it is impossible for someone like me to look at what happened at Fox without raising the subject of followership. Without raising the subject of what happens when a wretchedly bad leader succeeds in frightening followers into remaining mute.
Ever since former Fox Anchor Gretchen Carlson filed a sexual harassment suit against former Fox behemoth Roger Ailes, former Fox women (and one prominent present woman) have come out of the woodwork. More than twenty women – 20! – finally came forward to say that Ailes had sexually harassed them, in some cases decades ago.
Which raises the question: Why did these women stay silent for so long? Why did they stay silent until after Gretchen Carlson went public?
It’s clear that Carlson’s decision go public and hold power accountable emboldened the others. Moreover, it’s clear why they waited for someone else – someone who, not incidentally, had already been professionally successful – to take the risk. But let’s be clear. Had these victims spoken out sooner, Fox’s miserably misogynistic culture and its miserably misogynistic leader would sooner have been upended.
Followers matter. Not just leaders.