Ex-Fox News Anchors Call To End Silencing Women Through NDAs, Say Sean Hannity 'Doesn't Believe Any of Us Were Telling the Truth'

Three former Fox News personalities who have settled sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuits against the company joined forces this month to launch a national nonprofit that advocates for ending nondisclosure agreements in the workplace.

Gretchen Carlson, Julie Roginsky and Diana Falzone said they created Lift Our Voices because nondisclosure agreements, or NDAs, harm women by forcing them into silence and perpetuating a cycle of predatory behavior.

Carlson and Roginsky spoke to Newsweek ahead of the weekend's release of Bombshell, the Jay Roach-directed film about sexual harassment accusations against former Fox CEO Roger Ailes. The movie recounts the experiences of several women, including Carlson and Roginsky, in exposing Ailes' role in creating a toxic work environment at the network.

Though Bombshell includes depictions of both Carlson and Roginsky, neither woman could comment on how accurately the film told her story, due to their NDAs. However, they told Newsweek that they want to use Lift Our Voices to "give voices back to the voiceless," and to rid the workplace of toxicity that corporations create by offering "hush money" to former employees and by requiring them to sign NDAs, or contracts that bar accusers from publicly discussing wrongdoing or other allegations in the workplace at the risk of being sued.

"The way we should be thinking about this is if these NDAs didn't exist, these predators would think twice about preying on women in the first place if they didn't think they could buy people's silence with paychecks," Roginsky told Newsweek.

While the #MeToo movement has brought workplace sexual harassment into the spotlight, they said, the ways that companies deal with the issue have not significantly changed as a result.

"We thought we had fixed this problem in my generation, and obviously we didn't. So, now I'm bound and determined to fix it for the next one," Carlson said.

They plan to do this in part by using Lift Our Voices to organize boycotts of companies that use NDAs to silence issues of toxic work environments, including sexual harassment and retaliating against employees who speak out. The non-profit also plans to educate the public on what NDAs are and what they entail. Roginsky told Newsweek that NDAs are often "conditions of employment," and while many assume they are only used to protect proprietary information, they often bar employees from discussing toxic practices with each other and outsiders.

"What we've learned from advertiser boycotts where it became untenable for certain news stations to employ certain predators because advertisers began to boycott them," Roginsky explained. "We intend to make it a PR problem for these companies if they continue to insist that their workers can't speak publicly about toxic workplace conditions."

Because of their own NDAs, each woman has been limited in what she's been able to say about her respective settlement. Carlson settled her sexual harassment lawsuits against CEO Roger Ailes in 2016, and Roginsky in 2017. Carlson's suit alleged that Ailes retaliated against her and "sabotaged her career because she refused his sexual advances and complained about severe and pervasive sexual harassment." In her suit, Roginsky said that Ailes offered her a regular hosting spot on The Five "contingent upon having a sexual relationship with Ailes." Falzone's suit claimed she was stopped from appearing on air and on the Fox website after writing a column about her struggles with endometriosis, and she sued on grounds that Fox discriminated against her based on gender and her medical condition.

Their cases are among the repeated accusations of sexual misconduct against top Fox employees, including Ailes and former host Bill O'Reilly. O'Reilly and Fox News settled five sexual harassment lawsuits as early as 2002, The New York Times reported. In 2017, O'Reilly was taken off Fox News shortly after allegations came to light. "After a thorough and careful review of the allegations, the Company and Bill O'Reilly have agreed that Bill O'Reilly will not be returning to the Fox News Channel," 21st Century Fox wrote in a statement. In a statement at the time, O'Reilly called the decision "disheartening" and maintained that his departure followed "unfounded claims," according to NBC News.

In November, Fox anchor Sean Hannity asked O'Reilly to return to Fox during a radio broadcast of The Sean Hannity Show. The conversation made no mention of the sexual harassment lawsuits that ousted O'Reilly in the first place. Hannity has made similar comments in the past, leading some to believe that he was joking.

Shortly after Hannity's remarks, Carlson and Roginsky released a joint statement criticizing Hannity for his invitation and calling for the network to release all women from their NDAs. Roginsky said they were speaking up on behalf of the women they knew couldn't do so due to their NDAs.

"That is a huge part of the problem when you have people suggesting that alleged predators should be able to come back to huge, high-paying positions like they did nothing wrong," Carlson told Newsweek. "What about the women who are not working anymore or the women involved just in that case alone? I think it speaks volumes about the culture that may or may not exist there."

"It feels like Sean Hannity doesn't believe that any of us were telling the truth or he doesn't care, or he believes us, and he doesn't care that Bill O'Reilly engaged in that behavior," Roginsky told Newsweek.

Representatives for Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly did not immediately respond to emailed requests for comment. O'Reilly's lawyer Frederic S. Newman also did not respond to request for comment. Fox News declined to comment on the record.

But Carlson and Roginsky told Newsweek that is why Lift Our Voices exists: To put a stop to that kind of behavior. They said that they also hope to use the platform not only for high-profile figures but also for women who don't have powerful platforms to advocate for themselves.

"Those people don't have access to Newsweek or to The Hollywood Reporter or to The New York Times' op-ed pages or columns or to have the megaphone that we've been lucky and afforded to have, because of the high profile we had when we were on television," Roginsky said."Those people deserve to have their voices heard."

The advocates behind Lift Our Voices' hope to see the day when no one is silenced for calling out predatory behavior.

"Quite honestly, it may be too late for me, with regards to projects that are being done about my story, to be able to ever get all of the details out, but it's not too late for a bunch of other people," Carlson said. "So I have to look at it from a positive point of view about the big picture, and the big picture is that we're talking about this issue as a result of this project. And even if just one woman finds the courage to come forward as the result of it, it's worth it."

Gretchen Carlson
TV personality Gretchen Carlson speaks onstage during The Hollywood Reporter's Power 100 Women in Entertainment at Milk Studios on December 11, 2019 in Hollywood, California. Stehanie Keenan/Getty