In early 2007, journalist Rudi Bakhtiar thought she was about to get her big break at Fox News. Her friend and colleague, Brian Wilson, told her that he would soon become Washington bureau chief for the network, and he wanted her to get the weekend correspondent job. But then he allegedly said the words that would undo it all: “You know how I feel about you, Rudi,” Bakhtiar says Wilson told her.
Bakhtiar claims Wilson wanted to establish a friends-with-benefits relationship, an offer that she says she politely rebuffed. But in the wake of the rejection, Bakhtiar says network executives canceled her Washington appearances. A few weeks later, she met with Fox News chairman Roger Ailes, who told her the network was exercising an option to terminate her contract due to poor performance. After going through a mediation process, Fox News paid her an undisclosed amount and Bakhtiar agreed to never speak publicly of her experience.
Following the sexual harassment lawsuit from former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson filed against Ailes, who resigned from Fox News on Thursday, Bakhtiar says she was emboldened to speak out. Bakhtiar has also said that she’s received moral support from colleagues, including anchor Megyn Kelly. The Times spoke with about a dozen women who said they experienced sexual harassment or intimidation while working at Fox News or the Fox Business Network. With the exception of Bakhtiar, all spoke on the condition of anonymity, due to embarrassment and fear of retribution.
Bakhtiar, who now works as a producer for Reuters, said she felt the potential to help other women in broadcasting was worth the risk of being sued by Fox for breaching her nondisclosure agreement. “What are they going to do? Come after me for money? Garnish my wages? It’ll make a bigger story out of it,” she said. “I just feel like I shut up because I didn’t want to hurt my career. It’s awful what happened to me, and to other people, with a nod from management.”
Read the full story at The New York Times.