Breaking Big


Gretchen Carlson

See how former FOX News anchor Carlson—a Miss America winner and Stanford graduate—found the strength to sue her employers for sexual harassment and become an advocate for working women everywhere.

AIRED: August 31, 2018 | 0:25:31

- [Carlos] Former news anchor, Gretchen Carlson,

has been excelling since childhood.

From a young violin prodigy, to being crowned Miss America--

- [Announcer] Miss America is--

- [Carlos] to becoming a nationally recognized face

on Fox News.

- He looks at me for that.

- But from the very inception of her TV career,

she was faced with one traumatizing encounter after another.

So, what compelled this brilliant and accomplished woman

to fight back by launching a historic legal battle

against one of the most powerful men in media,

turning her into a symbol of progress for millions of women?

- Sexual harassment is not about sex.

It's about power and about what somebody does to you

to try and take away your power.

- [Carlos] And what gave her the courage

to turn this potentially career-ending event

into her moment to break big?

What makes people successful?

What are the unexpected turns in life

that propel people to greatness?

I'm Carlos Watson, editor of OZY.

I'm out to uncover the real secrets behind Breaking Big.

(violin music)

(audience applauds)

- Please help me welcome

our 2018 Champion of Change, Gretchen Carlson.

- I am Gretchen Carlson, I'm a mom,

I'm a journalist, I'm a philanthropist,

I'm a former Miss America,

and like millions of other American women,

I'm a survivor of sexual assault and sexual harassment.

I'd been fired after a 25-year career in journalism,

a career that I had worked so damn hard to achieve.

There was no Me Too movement then,

no Times Up pin.

There was just me

taking on one of the most powerful people in the world...

and jumping off that cliff all alone.

Or so I thought.

- You know, what's so interesting, Gretchen,

I think about people who have taken

bold moves and I really do believe in

family and friend affirmation.

- Courage is a building process.

It's not something that you just come up with overnight.

It really goes back to the way in which I was raised,

and my parents believing in me,

and saying, "You can do this, no matter what."

(upbeat music)

- First of all, she was very capable,

talented, and completely driven, even then.

- [Lee] She loved sports.

In fact she played softball.

It was right when she was starting the violin.

- I excelled in school, and I excelled in music,

and it was so important as a young girl

to hear my parents tell me

you can be anything you want to be.

- She was blessed with this unbelievable

musical talent,

and I actually believe that when God gives you

brains or talent,

it's your responsibility to do something with it.

So, she practiced and practiced on the violin.

She played all over the country,

even with the Minnesota Orchestra when she was in 7th grade.

She told me once she can still remember

all the concertos in her head.

I didn't know how she remembered them at the time.

But in the meantime, she was a very good student.

- [Lee] She graduated first in her class.

- [Carlos] After high school,

Gretchen went on to Stanford University

and spent a summer abroad at Oxford.

And while there, her parents planted a seed

that would alter her life forever.

- [Karen] In college,

she still spent three hours a day practicing the violin,

but she liked academics,

and she liked to be in plays.

There's not all that time in one day, you know.

- [Lee] She was going to quit the violin.

- When I gave up the violin, my parents were devastated,

and they wanted to find another way for me to

use that talent.

And my mom literally got a brochure in the mail,

and she called me, I was studying at Oxford at the time,

she's like, "I found something for you to try."

And I was like, "What?"

- Karen said "I see there's a pageant coming up,

"and there's talent involved in it."

So, it gave us a chance to have her extend

her playing a little bit longer.

So, it was kind of a sneaky way to do it, probably but--

- Miss America?

I'm like, "Mom, have you seen my 13-year-old photos?"

My nickname was Goal Post Gretchen

because of my two front teeth.

I had braces twice.

I struggled with my weight my entire life,

but really, specifically as a young person.

I wasn't playing with dolls or

thinking about putting makeup on.

- Really?

- [Gretchen] I loved playing army and football outside

with my brothers and neighbors.

I was a tomboy growing up, like, mom,

what is wrong with you?

- We're taught categories:

you're either pretty or you're smart,

you're in the arts or you're in science,

you're musically talented

so that means you're not likely to be athletic.

These are false categories,

and I think people like Gretchen Carlson make clear

that they don't have to be boxed in.

- I never watched pageants.

This was not something that was on my radar screen at all,

but my mom's an incredibly convincing person.

She's like, "You're smart.

"It's all about interview and talent."

And she said, "But it's gonna take a lot of hard work."

But I believed her.

- I wouldn't have helped her

if I didn't think she had a very, very good chance to win.

At that time talent was worth 50%,

and I was certain no one could touch her talent.

The swimsuit, of course,

that was a riot.

We had booked room in the basement with some equipment.

I've never seen anyone work quite so hard.

- [Carlos] After caving to her parent's persuasion,

Gretchen made it her mission

to become the best possible contestant

and shocked even herself when she won Miss Minnesota.

But, the real challenge was still ahead

with her national debut in the Miss America pageant.

(violin music)

- You know, there were a lot of supposed strikes against me.

I'm from a state, Minnesota,

that isn't typically known as a pageant state,

and I play classical violin, and that's never won.

But in the end,

winning was who could keep it together mentally.

I learned that through being a competitive violinist.

Everyone could play the notes, for the most part.

Competition in the end is determination,

discipline, practice...

tunnel vision in your mental capacity

to be able to accomplish something like that.

Very similar to Miss America.

- [Announcer] So now,

we announce our first runner up,

Maya Walker, Miss Colorado. (audience cheering)

Miss America is Gretchen Carlson, Miss Minnesota.

- Grit.

I have found this quality to be the common denominator

of great achievers in every domain that I've studied,

from jazz musicians, and CEO's and quarterbacks.

They all have this one characteristic in common:

the kind of love and hard work that defines grit.

- [Gretchen] The Miss America experience really

catapulted me into being interested in television,

because on a daily basis I was doing

television and radio interviews.

But, I've always sort of been underestimated,

and a lot of that has to do with this.

- Blonde hair? - Mm-hm.

On the first day, when I came to my press conference,

a female reporter dubbed me the smart Miss America.

So, she tried to make me look stupid.

She asked me who was on the $10 bill,

who was on the $100 bill, what year did the Vietnam war end,

have you ever done drugs, and have you ever had sex,

just to demoralize me.

- What is real on you and what isn't real?

- Everything on me is real.

- Your hair's that natural color?

- Except for a few highlights.

- Have you had sex yet, or are you waiting to get married?

(reporters groan)

- Oh, come on. - No comment on that.

People suddenly just didn't like me just because.

I remember I called my mom.

I was like, "Mom, what's going on?"

And my dad, whom everyone loves,

said to me, "Gretchen, no matter how hard you try,

you're never gonna get everyone to like you."

And that advice is something I think about every single day.

The real thing, though,

was being on an old television show

with Dick Clark and Ed McMahon

called Bloopers and Practical Jokes.

I had to do a 14-minute monologue about a satellite system.

You should look at the video tape if you want a good laugh.

- [Man] How much time do we have?

- [Director] We've got about two minutes.

- Now remember-- - Four, three, two.

- [Dick] She knows absolutely nothing about the system.

(audience laughs)

- Hi, I'm glad to be back with you this morning.

I'm Gretchen Carlson, the new Miss America.

This multi-sync integrated satellite system--

- [Dick] This cue card is upside down.

She's reading it anyway, Ed, she's amazing.

- [Ed] Gretchen's doing too well,

so, here's a little more trouble.

-...above the operating frequency.

It was the most painful experience of my life.

I was thinking they're gonna fire me as Miss America

'cause I'm doing such a horrible job.

But, after it aired, I had TV agents call me

and say, "If you can do that,

"you can do TV."

- [Carlos] Gretchen's focus and raw talent

were quickly rewarded

with her first TV gig at a local news affiliate,

WRIC in Richmond.

But once there, she would immediately be introduced

to the realities of being a woman

in a male-dominated industry.

- [Gretchen] I, unfortunately,

was sexually harassed on the job about a month later.

- [Carlos] So, from your very first job?

- [Gretchen] Mm-hmm.

I was in a rural part of the state with my camera man.

He started asking me about how much I had enjoyed it

when he had touched my breast with the microphone,

and it went downhill from there.

- [Carlos] And so, what did you do when that happened?

- Panicked.

I was new in the business,

I didn't really know what I was doing,

I'm with some guy I don't know,

and I actually envisioned rolling out of the car,

wondering how much that would hurt if I did that,

because I was so panicked to try and get away.

- One way of thinking about the workplace

in today's world for women is

as a psychological battleground.

One of the things that often female employees report

is that they start wondering, you know,

whether or not they have done something

to possibly invite this kind of experience.

Am I going to be perceived in a negative light,

or am I limiting my career options if I end up

saying something and not wanting this to happen anymore.

- When I got back to the station, I was just shaking.

When women go through this, it's this horrifying

experience because your entire self-confidence

just drains out of you.

- [Lee] She was quite upset by that.

- You could just quit.

But that's what you would call resilience,

to keep coming back.

- [Carlos] Following that encounter, Gretchen persevered,

moving around the country in pursuit of her ultimate goal:

an anchor position on a major network.

- Cleveland winters are actually very sad

for thousands of people...

Gretchen Carlson, NBC 5, Dallas.

- [Carlos] As her exposure grew,

network executives took notice.

- When I saw Gretchen on camera,

I immediately said, "Oh boy, this is a winner."

I mean she pops off the screen.

This was someone that we wanted to pursue.

She had gone from a smaller market

to bigger and bigger and bigger markets,

and it wasn't long before we did have an opening.

- Coming up next: advice on what to do if a kid is a little

too computer savvy.

You're watching the Saturday Early Show on CBS.

- She was with us about five years.

She had been the co-anchor of the Saturday Early Show,

which she was great at.

The show got good ratings, but Gretchen wanted more.

She wanted to work on the Monday through Friday broadcast,

but we had anchors on that show,

so I just couldn't give her what she wanted

at the point when she wanted it.

- She worked very hard

and long to get to network news.

So, when she got the job for Fox and Friends,

that was a big deal for her.

- [Carlos] In 2006, Gretchen finally landed the job

she'd been waiting for:

a permanent position on a nationally broadcast morning show.

- Fox News alert for you now because top democrats

in the senate breaking ranks with the president.

- [Carlos] But despite being on a major cable news show,

Gretchen still faced prejudices based on her gender

and her appearance.

- I reached the bimbo trifecta when I got to Fox.

Natural blonde: strike one.

Former Miss America: strike two.

And then I came to Fox News, uh-oh.

The thing is, I developed a really thick skin

early on after being Miss America,

because that same exact thing happened.

To be treated in that way

was the biggest disappointment for me after that experience,

and so when I got to Fox and then it really ramped up,

it was almost like my resume evaporated.

Would you like to correct your self on

that other talking point

about men being dominant? - Oh, we don't have any time.

I wish we did. (laughing)

We're running over. - Okay, okay,

'cause HR's on the phone because you called me a skirt.

- Part of the challenge for a woman

like Gretchen Carlson and the position that she's in,

is do I really speak up,

do I really say something when I'm being stereotyped

as a woman who doesn't know much

or a woman who's just a sexual object?

Or, do I really say,

I'm here, and I'm well-qualified to be here,

and I've worked hard to be here,

and you're not going to treat me like that?

- Women are everywhere.

We're letting them play golf and tennis now.

It's out of control. - You know what?

You read the headlines since men are so great.

- [Carlos] Over the course of a decade at Fox News,

Gretchen experienced many forms of sexual harassment,

including squarely from the man at the very top:

CEO Roger Ailes.

- Yes, I knew everything.

But I don't think anyone still

knows the whole story completely.

And no one maybe will because some of it will never

be spoken about.

For anyone to work in that kind of a workplace

and feel like they can't speak up, isn't good.

This went on for years.

Kept getting worse and worse.

- [Carlos] When the harassment from Ailes

had reached its breaking point,

she began to explore her legal options.

- When Gretchen first came to me, I listened carefully.

I found her to be entirely credible,

and I felt that the way to do my very best for Gretchen

was to associate with one of the very best:

Nancy Erika Smith.

- I don't watch Fox News,

so I didn't know who Gretchen was, honestly.

But, when I met Gretchen, I saw a woman

like women I have seen for 38 years:

a very hurt, scared woman,

who had been abused by a man in the workplace,

and had incredible evidence of it.

- So, you realize that there are people who

will be critical of you.

You were one of the faces of Fox News for over a decade.

You helped build them up. What do you say?

- Well, all I ever wanted to do was work hard

and have a great career,

and every person can get caught up

in cult-like behavior.

After 25 years in the television business,

when they told me that my career was going to end

for me at least there, and it wasn't my choice,

I decided if I don't do something about this, who will?

- [Karen] Well, at first, I really wasn't in favor of it.

- We were more concerned for her safety because of the

power of the people involved.

Who knows what might happen?

- I can still see where I was sitting

when my parents called me together,

and it was a very emotional call where they told me that

they would support me no matter what.

I finally had to stand up for what was right

and the truth.

Still, when you're on that edge of the cliff,

and you're about to dive...

it's the toughest decision of your life.

- [Carlos] In 2016, Gretchen was fired from Fox News,

and though the official reason given was dwindling ratings,

Gretchen fought back,

claiming not only that he had sexually harassed her,

but that she was wrongfully fired for refusing his advances.

- When Gretchen Carlson sued Ailes,

she engaged in what might be

the riskiest legal battle I've personally have ever seen.

Roger Ailes wielded tyrannical power

within the Fox News corporation.

And so, to push back against that,

especially in the legal arena, really invited a lot of risk

to Gretchen Carlson, personally.

There is no doubt she put her entire career on the line.

- [Gretchen] First few days felt like a lifetime.

But when you do something like this,

you have no idea what's going to happen in the next minute,

much less the next hour or the next day.

- And so how did you feel about the folks

who you probably thought of as friends, as colleagues

who were either openly or quietly critical?

- I can't really share with you my feelings about that,

but I think that you find out who your friends are.

- I told her from the very beginning,

Fox would challenge her credibility.

It was David versus Goliath.

- We knew what Ailes was capable of, in terms of the media.

We knew what happened when

Andrea Mackris sued Bill O'Reilly,

and she was brutalized in the press

and called a slut, a drunk.

It was just all out war, but we prepared ourselves.

We upped all our security, protected all our emails.

We were ready for it.

- I knew Roger Ailes.

He helped elect presidents.

They wouldn't think twice about

flicking somebody away like a flea.

And to take that guy on

took courage that few people would have.

She was alone.

This wasn't a class action suit,

this was her by herself.

- [Carlos] In a pre-Me Too era,

the chances of Gretchen succeeding were slim,

but her willingness to carry this burden alone

sent a thunderous message to the world.

She would soon realize that she wasn't alone at all.

- Shortly after we filed,

her courage made other victims of Roger Ailes come forward.

It stopped being he said, she said and started being

he said, she said, she said, she said, she said, she said.

We got to 24.

- That's when I said, "This is a watershed moment."

She brought down

the most powerful man in TV news.

In two weeks, Roger Ailes was gone from that network.

It was beyond my wildest expectations

that this could possibly happen.

- [Carlos] In July of 2016, Ailes resigned,

and within weeks Gretchen was awarded

one of the largest sexual harassment settlements in history.

But money wasn't her only reward.

- Gretchen and I insisted on an apology from Fox.

We would not settle without it.

We made that clear from day one.

Because women are called sluts and nuts

when they complain about sexual harassers,

and they're called liars

even by the current president of the United States.

So, an apology meant a lot, not only to Gretchen,

but to all women.

- And then, the dominoes started to fall.

- [Carlos] Gretchen's suit

not only forced Ailes out of power,

but it opened the door for women everywhere

to confront their own harassment,

and shake up the entire media industry.

- Yes, the revelations have been horrific,

but I think it has been so amazing

to watch this gift of courage being given

to one woman at a time.

A gift of courage is contagious,

and we're seeing it now multiply like we never thought.

Once my story went public, I heard from thousands

of other women across this great country,

and then the floodgates opened.

And from Harvey Weinstein to Eric Schneiderman,

the walls are coming

tumbling down.

- For those of us who believe

that there should be more change on this,

what else would you love to see happen?

Where do you think it goes from here?

- Well, I set up the Gretchen Carlson leadership initiative,

which allows underserved women to learn

about sexual harassment and how they can get help

because unfortunately the way that we've

decided to resolve sexual harassment cases in America:

silence women.

Either with settlements, which I have,

meaning I can't tell you the details,

or in arbitration clauses where most of these cases go to,

and it's a secret chamber.

And the women can never tell you what happened.

So, as a society, we think we solved this problem,

'cause we don't hear about these cases,

but that's why we're not hearing about them.

In December, I was proud to join congressional Republican

and Democrat for a bipartisan introduction

of a bill which makes arbitration optional,

a choice for women, in sexual harassment claims.

At the same time now, I am executive chair

of the Miss America organization.

I have a lot of fantastic ideas

to really bring it up to speed.

- [Carlos] Not everyone agrees

with Gretchen's changes to the competition,

and her leadership courted controversy.

But she presses on.

She's also taken her mission to D.C.

where she's fighting to free all women

from the arbitration laws that keep their battles

from ever seeing the inside of a courtroom.

- It's easier today

to come forward, and say, "Me too,"

and if I had anything to do with that,

then I feel blessed.

I was asked recently if I felt

that the Me Too movement and the Times Up movement

had actually peaked.

My answer is a resounding no.

We're just getting started.

I'm not a huge beliver in revenge,

but 10 years later, we were covering the same event.

I was now a reporter in New York City.

So, I decided, should I go up and say something?

And then I said, "Yep."

So, when I was done, I marched over to her and I said,

"Hi Penny." I said, "I'm Gretchen Carlson.

"You probably don't remember me at all,

"but when I was Miss America, you tried to take me down.

"And I just wanna let you know

"that I'm a correspondent now for CBS news, and you're not."

- (laughs) What'd she say? - I don't know.

I turned around and marched away as fast as I could.


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