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Gretchen Carlson

Gretchen Carlson

Gretchen Elizabeth Carlson (born June 21, 1966[1]) is an American television commentator, journalist, and author. She was named one of Time Magazine's 100 Most Influential People In The World in 2017.[3] Carlson was the 1989 Miss America while representing her native state of Minnesota. She graduated from Stanford University with honors before embarking on a career in television. Gaining experience as anchor and reporter for several local network affiliates, she joined CBS News as a correspondent in 2000 and became the co-host of the Saturday edition of The Early Show. In 2005, she moved to Fox News Channel and became the co-host of the morning show Fox & Friends along with Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade. In 2013, she announced her departure from Fox & Friends and soon thereafter launched a new program called The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson. Her autobiography, Getting Real, was published in 2015 by Viking. Her second book, Be Fierce: Stop Harassment and Take Your Power Back[4] was published by Hachette in 2017 and became a New York Times Bestseller.

Her contract with Fox News expired on June 23, 2016. On July 6, she filed a lawsuit against then Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes claiming sexual harassment.[5] Subsequently, dozens of other women also stepped forward to accuse Ailes of harassment,[6] and Ailes was forced to resign under pressure.[7] In September 2016, Carlson and 21st Century Fox settled the lawsuit for $20 million.[8]

Gretchen Carlson
Gretchen Elizabeth Carlson

(1966-06-21)June 21, 1966[1]
Anoka, Minnesota, U.S.
ResidenceGreenwich, Connecticut
Alma materStanford University
  • Author
  • television host
  • Miss Minnesota 1988
  • Miss America 1989
PredecessorKaye Lani Rae Rafko
SuccessorDebbye Turner
Casey Close (m. 1997)
Websitegretchencarlson.com [75]

Early life

Carlson was raised in a Lutheran family in Anoka, Minnesota, the daughter of Karen Barbara (Hyllengren) and Lee Roy Carlson.[9][10] She is of Swedish descent.[11] Her grandfather was the pastor of the then second-largest Lutheran church in the United States.[12] She graduated from Anoka-Hennepin School District 11's Anoka High School, where she was a 1984 class valedictorian.[13] One of her childhood babysitters was Michele Bachmann, the future Republican congresswoman.[14]

Growing up, Carlson was a violinist, who played on radio and television.[15]

In 1984, Carlson was elected as one of the Anoka Homecoming attendants.[15] She won the title of Miss Minnesota in 1988.[16]

Carlson graduated from Stanford University, where she studied organizational behavior.[17] While there, she spent a study-abroad year at Oxford University, studying the works of Virginia Woolf.[17]

In September 2011, Carlson was named to the inaugural class of the Anoka High School Hall of Fame.[15][18]


Television news work

Carlson greeting President Ronald Reagan in 1988

Carlson greeting President Ronald Reagan in 1988

Carlson in 2009

Carlson in 2009

A year after becoming Miss America in 1989, Carlson secured a role on WRIC-TV as a co-anchor on the network and political commentator. Style Weekly deemed it a coup for WRIC-TV as it was a "low rated channel" at the time.[19] In 1992, she joined WCPO-TV as a media commentator and remained at the station for a period of two years.[20] She later worked at WOIO, where Carlson and her colleague Denise Dufala, became the first women to co-anchor a primetime major-market newscast.[21]

Next, Carlson was the co-anchor of the Saturday edition of The Early Show on CBS along with Russ Mitchell. She joined CBS News as a correspondent in 2000 and began working on The Early Show in 2002. Before her tenure at CBS, she served as a weekend anchor and reporter for KXAS-TV in Fort Worth, Texas, and was an anchor and reporter at WOIO-TV in Cleveland, Ohio, and for WCPO-TV, in Cincinnati. She began her television career in Richmond, Virginia, as a political reporter for WRIC-TV.[22]

She was moved to Fox & Friends initially as a weekend substitute host. But on September 25, 2006, a shifting of anchors, which included E.D. Hill moving to the 10 a.m. hour of Fox News Live, opened a weekday slot on Fox & Friends, which she filled. She co-hosted with Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade for several years. She left Fox & Friends in September 2013 to anchor a one-hour daytime program, The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson, beginning in the fall of 2013, taking part of the slot opened by Megyn Kelly's move to primetime.[23][24]

Sexual harassment lawsuit settlement and A&E

On July 6, 2016, Carlson filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Fox News chairman Roger Ailes in the Superior Court of New Jersey and confirmed on her Twitter account that she was no longer with Fox News.[25] In her complaint, Carlson alleged that she was fired from her program for refusing Ailes' sexual advances.[25] Ailes at the time claimed the accusations were false, while the law firm representing Carlson claimed ten other women had contacted them to speak of Ailes' behavior at Fox News.[26]

Carlson's allegations received widespread media coverage.[27] After Carlson came forward, six more women spoke to Gabriel Sherman of New York magazine, alleging that Ailes had sexually harassed them and that Ailes "spoke openly of expecting women to perform sexual favors in exchange for job opportunities."[28] Shortly thereafter, Carlson sat down for an interview with John Koblin of The New York Times, saying, "I wanted to stand up for other women who maybe faced similar circumstances."[29]

As the case progressed, Carlson reached out directly to her fans, thanking them in a series of Twitter videos[30][31] and offering her support for fellow victims of sexual harassment.[32] She also criticized Fox's attempt to force her claims to be adjudicated via closed-door mandatory arbitration rather than in court. Fox filed court papers arguing that Carlson was compelled by her contract to adjudicate her claims in arbitration.[33] Carlson said: "Forcing victims of sexual harassment into secret arbitration proceedings is wrong, because it means nobody finds out what really happened."[33]

After Ailes resigned on July 21, 2016,[34] Carlson said she felt "relief that now I would be believed," though she also "felt angry that it took so long" for Ailes to step down.[35]

On September 6, 2016, 21st Century Fox announced that it had settled the lawsuit with Carlson. The settlement was reportedly $20 million. As part of the settlement, 21st Century Fox apologized to Carlson, saying that "We sincerely regret and apologize for the fact that Gretchen was not treated with the respect and dignity that she and all of our colleagues deserve."[8]

In April 2018, Carlson reached a first-look development deal with A&E Networks, under which she would host three documentary specials across its channels, such as Lifetime. Gretchen Carlson: Breaking the Silence focuses on the every woman story of workplace sexual harassment and premiered on Lifetime on January 14, 2019.[36][37]

Women's Rights Advocate & Miss America Chairwoman

In 2017, Carlson released her second book, Be Fierce. The book discussed cases of sexual harassment and went onto be a NY Times bestseller. She also appeared on two TED talks, one discussing women's rights and sexual harassment in the workplace, and the other discussing the hyper-partisan political times we live in and how we might come together as a nation to solve issues.[38]

On January 1, 2018, Carlson was elected chairwoman of the board of directors of the Miss America Organization, a volunteer position.[39] Shortly after joining as Chairwoman, Carlson's first major achievement was to remove the swimsuit competition from the pageant, following a unanimous vote from the Board of Directors. It was reported in CNN that Carlson's goals were to transition the pageant into Miss America 2.0, where the swimsuit competitions would be replaced with on-stage interviews. The move aimed to shift focus from appearances to achievements, in light of the recent Me Too movement.[40]

The move divided opinion mostly within the organization. Months into her tenure as Chair of the Board of Miss America, 22 states held a vote of no confidence[41] in the leadership of both Carlson and CEO Regina Hopper demanding their resignations, citing a lack of transparency and adherence to best practices.[42]

Calls for resignation came as several board members abruptly were forced to resign. Former Miss Americas Kate Shindle and Laura Kaeppeler Fleiss listed "toxic culture" as their reason for departing from the board in June 2018. Former Miss North Carolina Jennifer Vaden Barth and Former Miss Maine Valerie Crooker Clemens, detailed they were forced to resign when Carlson issued a letter stating they were trying to gain control of the organization, the Wall Street Journal reported.[41]

On August 10, 2018, 11 former Miss Americas released a statement[43] calling for both Carlson and Hopper to resign. The former Miss Americas say that following an email scandal[44] that resulted in the exit of the former CEO and chairman of the board in December, they were given the opportunity to install "our very own sisters." Former titleholders assumed temporary co-chair roles on the board. From there, Carlson was supposed to head up a national search to find a new CEO.[43] The letter continued on to say that Carlson "selected the sole candidate for board consideration and together they have taken the organization in a direction that we do not condone."[43] Hopper helped orchestrate[44] the removal of previous leadership by leaking emails to the attention of Dick Clark Productions, which eventually dropped the organization.[45] In August 2018, Miss America 2018 Cara Mund wrote a letter to her fellow Miss America titleholders alleging that Carlson and Hopper "silenced me, reduced me, marginalized me, and essentially erased me in my role as Miss America."[46] Mund went on to say that after the new board took over in January, she "was given three talking points" and told to stick to them: That "Miss America is relevant"; that "the #MeToo movement started with a Miss America"; and that both she and Carlson were graduates of elite colleges.[47]

In early 2019, it was announced that the Miss America brand would return to NBC.[48] The return was seen as a coup for Miss America under Carlson's leadership, as it would raise much-needed funds prior to its 100th anniversary.[49] After securing the network deal, Carlson resigned from the pageant in June 2019.[50]

The Loudest Voice

In 2019, Carlson's career at Fox News was portrayed on the Showtime miniseries, The Loudest Voice. Her role as co-anchor at Fox News was depicted by actress Naomi Watts. Watts stated in interviews that the story of Carlson was "inspiring" and that she dealt with multiple scenarios with "dignity and grace."[51]

Other cast members included Russell Crowe as Roger Ailes, Seth MacFarlane as Brian Lewis and Sienna Miller as Beth Tilson. The fifth episode in the series portrayed the deteriorating working relationship between Carlson and Ailes from 2012 onwards. Many incidents were portrayed to the public for the first time, since Carlson was unable to speak directly about the events, due to a confidentiality clause in the settlement between her and Fox News.[52][53]

The Loudest Voice portrayed a number of events at Fox News which were set up by executives to discredit Carlson shortly before she left the organization. Naomi Watts spoke of one such event in an interview, where a random guest was put on her show shortly before it aired live, with the sole goal of attacking Carlson on live television.[51]

The series aired the audio recordings taken by Carlson during her time at Fox News for the first time. The recordings were of various incidents at Fox where Carlson was sexually harassed by Ailes and other colleagues at Fox News. The show also follows the incidents leading up to Carlson reporting the sexual harassment she received.[54] The Loudest Voice then portrayed her demotion and the events that followed her filing the internal complaint, many of which were recorded.[55] The recordings went on to play a major part in the settlement negotiations between Carlson and Fox News.[56]


It was announced in late 2018 that a film portraying Carlson's career at Fox News would air in late 2019. Carlson would be played by Nicole Kidman, with other cast members including Margot Robbie and Charlize Theron as Megyn Kelly.[57] The film would follow events at Fox News in the run-up to Roger Ailes leaving the organization.[57]


Getting Real

Getting Real was Carlson's first book, which was released in 2015. Since the book was released prior to her leaving Fox News, the book focuses predominantly on Miss America and the challenges women face when in certain roles. During an interview with The National Review, Carlson stated "I faced negative stereotypes immediately after becoming Miss America. It was like my résumé evaporated...When people don't want to debate you on the smart issues of the day, it's just a lot easier to call you a dumb blonde from Fox."[58]

In her memoir, Carlson alluded to sexism and other forms of discrimination she and others had faced.[58] Following the Roger Ailes case, many media commentators revisited Getting Real with a fresh approach. Some stated that the book was Carlson's first steps to standing up to the harassment she had faced while working at Fox News.[59]

Be Fierce

In 2017, she released her second book, Be Fierce: Stop Harassment And Take Your Power Back. Carlson used the publication as a platform to tell the stories of women from across the United States who had experienced sexual harassment. During interviews, women gave multiple examples of how they had been objectified by male coworkers.[60]

Philanthropy and awards

Carlson created the "Gift Of Courage Fund" in 2017[61] and partnered with the nonprofit organization All In Together to sponsor the Gretchen Carlson Leadership Initiative, a program meant to "bring civic leadership and advocacy training to thousands of underserved women across the country, with a special focus on empowering women who have experienced gender-based violence, discrimination, or harassment."[62] Carlson is a longtime supporter of Miss You Can Do It, a pageant with an emphasis "not on looks but courage."[63] In 2016, Carlson served as the pageant's MC.[64]

Personal life

On October 4, 1997, Carlson married sports agent Casey Close.[65][66] They live in Greenwich, Connecticut,[67] with their two children.[11][68]

She announced on Fox & Friends on June 9, 2009, also repeated on Glenn Beck's Fox News program, that her parents' car dealership had been selected for closure as part of the General Motors reorganization and bankruptcy.[69][70] A year later the Star Tribune reported that "It took an act of Congress, a national TV appeal and maybe a little bit of history on the owners' side, but Main Motor, the Anoka car dealership that Lee and Karen Carlson's family has owned for 91 years, will keep its General Motors dealership after all."[71]


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