Bullying In The Digital Age: Media Under Fire For Racist, Sexist Leadership But Trump Still Has Immunity

Written by Dana Sanchez

Less than a month after Fox New’s biggest star, Bill O’Reilly, broadcast a sexist joke about Rep. Maxine Waters of California, he’s out of a job.

Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor” lost more than 60 advertisers and there were growing calls for him to be fired after the New York Times reported April 1 that Fox paid five women $13 million to silence their allegations of sexual harassment or verbal abuse, CNN reported.

In a separate case, the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a lawsuit against Andrew Anglin, alt-right founder of the neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer, for launching a terror campaign against a Jewish woman.

Anglin used his website to encourage harassment of Tanya Gersh, a real estate agent living in Whitefish, Montana, as well as her husband and 12-year-old son, DiversityInc reported.

Anglin encouraged readers to target Gersh and other Jews in Montana. Gersh got more than 700 harassing and threatening messages.

According to the lawsuit, the harassment began after Gersh became professionally involved with Sherry Spencer, mother of Richard Spencer, an alt-right figure made famous by a viral video of him saying, “Heil Hitler!” with supporters responding with Nazi salutes. Gersh was going to help Sherry sell a commercial building in Whitefish after Sherry became concerned about rumors that her property would be the target of protests following her son’s viral video.

Sherry changed her mind about working with Gersh. Gersh provided names of other real estate agents and “These emails were the last communication between Ms. Spencer and Ms. Gersh,” according to the lawsuit.

A few weeks later, Sherry published a blog post on Medium saying Gersh “tried to threaten and extort her into agreeing to sell her building, making a donation, and denouncing her son’s views.” This essay triggered Anglin’s attacks against Gersh, according to DiversityInc.

Waters had just criticized President Donald Trump when O’Reilly targeted her, Times-Picayune reported. “I didn’t hear a word (Waters) said,” O’Reilly said during “Fox & Friends.” He didn’t hear Waters, he claimed, because “I was looking at the James Brown wig. If we have a picture of James, it’s the same wig.”

“There were so many transgressions there,” said Jarvis DeBerry, deputy opinions editor for Nola.com/The Times-Picayune. “First and foremost, you don’t arrogantly admit to ignoring what a woman is saying. Second, you don’t admit to ignoring what a woman is saying because you were, instead, focused on her appearance. Third, you don’t admit to ignoring what she’s saying, claim to have been focused on her appearance, and then criticize her appearance. Fourth, you don’t suggest that the Godfather of Soul wore a wig. Fifth, ‘Papa Don’t Take No Mess.’ So don’t you ever, ever, ever call him ‘James.’ You call him ‘Mr. Brown.’

On Monday, a black O’Reilly accuser, represented by lawyer Lisa Bloom, said O’Reilly called her “hot chocolate” and grunted and leered at her in the workplace, The Daily Beast reported.

Although O’Reilly denies that he did anything wrong, and Trump supports him, O’Reilly has had a long, troubling and well-documented history with women in both the workplace and at home.

The Daily Beast provides a timeline here:

In October 2004, the O’Reilly Factor star was hit with possibly the greatest lawsuit in the history of cable news. Then-associate producer Andrea Mackris accused O’Reilly of sexual harassment, quoting the famed gasbag verbatim from phone calls she surreptitiously recorded.

According to the suit, O’Reilly would masturbate while on the phone with Mackris. Mackris also alleged that the then-married O’Reilly threatened to make any woman who complains about his behavior “pay so dearly that she’ll wish she’d never been born.” Two weeks later, he settled the case with a payout around $9 million.

According to court documents from his vicious custody battle with ex-wife Maureen McPhilmy, O’Reilly may have engaged in domestic violence. As Gawker reported at the time, the ex-couple’s teenage daughter told a court-appointed forensic examiner that she witnessed O’Reilly “choking her mom” as he “‘dragged her down some stairs’ by the neck.”

O’Reilly’s lawyer says the former Fox host “has been subjected to a brutal campaign of character assassination that is unprecedented in post-McCarthyist America,” the Times-Picayune reported.

This must be a super confusing time for the male chauvinist, DeBerry said in an opinion piece in Times-Picayune:

On the one hand, Trump got elected after he boasted of grabbing women by the genitals. There were all sorts of sexist put-downs of Hillary Clinton at Trump rallies. So a person could get the idea that open hostility toward women is now de rigeur. But then Bill O’Reilly gets canned for exhibiting the quintessential bad boy behavior.

O’Reilly’s support base continues to erode when it comes to people who would condone his behavior. Roger Ailes, founder and former CEO of Fox News and Fox Television Stations Group, resigned in July 2016 after allegations that he sexually harassed female colleagues. The younger sons of News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch are now asserting greater control of the company. O’Reilly has no one left to protect him, Daily Beast reported:

Bill-O can rest easy, however, knowing he has one defender: President Donald Trump, who said, “I don’t think Bill did anything wrong.”

In Anglin’s call for a troll storm, he posted the home address and telephone number of his target, Jewish Realtor Gersh, DiversityInc reported:

“Are y’all ready for an old fashioned Troll Storm? Because AYO — it’s that time, fam,” the post says. “And as always: NO VIOLENCE OR THREATS OF VIOLENCE OR ANYTHING EVEN CLOSE TO THAT. Just make your opinions known. Tell them you are sickened by their Jew agenda to attack and harm the mother of someone whom they disagree with.”

“Please call her and tell her what you think. And hey — if you’re in the area, maybe you should stop by and tell her in person what you think of her actions,” Anglin writes.

In one of the phone calls, Gersh said, “all I heard were gunshots. One time I answered the phone and heard, ‘You really should have died in the Holocaust with the rest of your people,’” she said. “This was so far beyond harassment. This was really terrorism.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center, which filed suit on Gersh’s behalf, is a nonprofit legal advocacy organization specializing in civil rights and public interest litigation. It was founded by Morris Dees and Joseph J. Levin Jr. in 1971 as a civil rights law firm in Montgomery, Alabama. In 1979, the SPLC began a litigation strategy of filing civil suits for monetary damages on behalf of victims of violence from the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups.

“In the old days, Andrew Anglin would have burned a cross on Tanya’s front lawn,” said Richard Cohen, president of the Southern Poverty Law Center. “In the digital age, he launched a troll storm against her.”

 

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