Former Bush speechwriter slams Fox News, Bill O'Reilly as 'a quick dip in a sewage treatment pond'

Michael Gerson tackles Fox News
(Image credit: Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

Michael Gerson, a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush and one of the conservative columnists at The Washington Post, wasn't a big fan of President Trump during the presidential campaign. But on Monday night, he published an op-ed in The Post that took aim at even riskier subjects for a conservative pundit: Fox News, its top star, and its anti-feminist culture. "Reading the accumulated sexual harassment accusations against Fox News host Bill O'Reilly and former network executive Roger Ailes is like a quick dip in a sewage treatment pond," he writes. "After even a brief exposure, the stench stays with you for days."

The dozens of accusations against O'Reilly and Ailes "could be a grand, elaborate calumny," Gerson acknowledges, though "it is hard to dismiss the women, as the accused have done, as unbalanced, dishonest, or disgruntled." He had praise for some Fox News personalities — Bret Baier, Chris Wallace, and Dana Perino — and the network's history as "an alternative to leftward-slanting media, and a place where the worst sorts of political correctness have been exposed." But he also hit Fox News where it hurts:

Can it really be a coincidence that feminism is often dismissed on Fox News as so much political correctness? Can a news organization deal adequately with women's issues when you would never allow your own daughter to work there?... I bet that Fox would not feature my next argument: Sometimes conservatives need liberals. (Sometimes liberals need conservatives as well, which is the topic for another day.) For more than 40 years, liberals have talked about sexual harassment and the need for equal treatment in the workplace. They have organized, argued, and sued. And they were exactly right. The routine sexism of a previous generation was wrong and oppressive. [Gerson, The Washington Post]

And "the crusty leftovers of workplace sexism remain," Gerson says, notably at Fox News, a network "preaching traditional values" while its stars allegedly treat women "as sex objects and employment benefits." Read the entire op-ed at The Washington Post.

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.