On Tuesday, former Fox News journalist, Jennifer Eckhart penned her second Open Letter, but this time it was speaking directly to the media conglomerate’s brand new general counsel and Executive Vice President of Corporate Development, Bernard T. Gugar.
The letter, entitled “A Chance for Change: My Open Letter to Fox News’ New General Counsel” was published to Medium, unlike her first Open Letter, which was shared to Thrive Global last October. Eckhart’s letter asks Gugar to use his new position “to address the systemic sexual harassment and discrimination that has, unfortunately, become synonymous with the Fox News name, as reported by True Hollywood Talk.
But the biggest question Eckhart and her legal team now face, is whether Gugar will see something different than his predecessors, hoping to serve as a beacon of hope for Eckhart and the several women who have come forward with allegations since former Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes stepped down in 2016?
Back in September 2016, Fox News came to a settlement with the former TV anchor, Gretchen Carlson, awarding her $20 million over sexual harassment claims against Ailes.
Another ‘Bombshell’ of Litigation
Following Carlson’s revelation to the public about her sexual harassment claims, Hollywood released its own depiction of the Fox News and Roger Ailes legal drama, in the 2019 film Bombshell, starring Nicole Kidman (portraying Gretchen Carlson) and Charlize Theron (portraying Megyn Kelly), both of whom had accused Ailes of sexual misconduct. The film chronicles the experiences of women at Fox News when Ailes was its chairman and CEO.
However, since Carlson’s success against Fox News, those women who have come forward, including Eckhart, haven’t had the same luck, continuing to fight an uphill battle against the media network who has continued to deny any wrongdoing involving Eckhart’s allegations against former Fox News anchor and Chief White House Correspondent, Ed Henry, as well as other Fox journalists’ claims against Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Howard Kurtz.
Since Ailes’ departure from Fox, the media conglomerate has continued to face backlash over several ongoing allegations of sexual misconduct, with four more women who have come forward with allegations against Henry, as reported by the Daily Mail.
One woman, Roxie Marroquin, in an exclusive interview with Andrew Rossow of True Hollywood Talk, came forward on the record, to reveal a particular encounter between her and Henry, of which she describes as feeling completely “powerless.”
“I was honestly kind of afraid and frozen,” she told Rossow. “I wasn’t sure what to do in the moment. I felt trapped, in a way, like, ‘oh man, did I give this person the wrong impression? What happens if I don’t do this?’ It was alot of emotions. So, I ended up getting in the bathtub. Fully nude. How this happens to a 25-year-old, I can’t explain, besides fear of rejecting him.”
A Tough Journey Ahead
Indeed, Gugar, who will very likely have to oversee many of the pending litigation against Fox News, has a tough journey ahead of him, especially when it comes to Eckhart’s lawsuit against her former employer.
Gugar, a former Google executive, previously serving as Google’s U.S. Head of Industries for Google Cloud’s Deal Pursuit Organization, was appointed on April 12 as Fox News Media’s newest general counsel and Executive Vice President of Corporate Development.
The new general counsel also previously served as the senior vice president and general counsel of Oprah Winfrey’s media company Harpo, Inc. for eight years.
Gugar will now succeed Lily Fu Claffee, who previously served as the organization’s general counsel for the past three years.
“I am excited to join one of the most influential news operations in the world and look forward to utilizing my experience spanning media, law and technology to help Fox News Media grow, evolve, and develop a diversified digital footprint,” Gugar said in his April 12 statement.
In Eckhart’s recent Open Letter, she begins by addressing Gugar directly, encouraging him that he can “show the world that Fox News is an organization that is committed to providing more than just lip service to issues of diversity in the workplace.”
The letter continues on to state:
…”An organization where women and people of color can speak up when they are mistreated, without fear of reprisal. An organization that takes responsibility for the conduct of its biggest and highest-earning stars…”
After Eckhart’s article was penned to Medium, her attorneys, Douglas Wigdor and Michael Willemin, who have previously represented many former Fox News employees who have accused the network of sexual misconduct, published their statement in their company press distribution email chain, stating:
“We are hopeful that Mr. Gugar appreciates the sincerity of Ms. Eckhart’s letter and the trauma that she has suffered,” said Eckhart’s attorney Michael J. Willemin, Partner at Wigdor LLP in a recent press announcement via email. “Mr. Gugar is in a power position from which he can drive real change at Fox News, and we hope he takes the opportunity to do so. We look forward to his prompt response.”
As of the date this article was published, Fox News has not yet responded to Eckhart’s letter, based on knowledge known at this point in time by Vents Magazine.