Op-ed: The Fox News That I Know

By Ellen Ratner

Originally published on Advocate.com May 05 2014 11:50 PM ET

I am a liberal lesbian, I have worked as a contributor at Fox News for 16 years — and I have loved every minute of it. So when I see Fox News under attack with falsehoods, I feel compelled to respond with the truth.

In particular, Gawker has run two stories accusing Roger Ailes and Bill Shine of homophobia; Specifically, Ailes and Shine are accused of mistreating a well-known Fox anchor. Fox has hotly denied the accusations — and I believe Fox has the truth on its side.

I know all the people involved in this story. In particular, I know Ailes and Shine well enough to know that the Gawker accusations are simply not true.

I admire Roger Ailes, the founder and CEO of Fox, and I admire what he has created. And here’s why: Fox possesses the finest corporate culture I have ever witnessed, and it’s a tribute to Roger. Back in 1996, when he left CNBC to start Fox, some 80 employees left CNBC to join him at the new venture, which sure seemed risky at the time. That is, these four-score employees were willing to leave secure jobs at CNBC because they trusted Roger — not only to succeed with Fox, but also to take good care of them. Now that’s how you develop a strong corporate culture.

Yes, there will always be critics — many critics. But the success of Fox, as a place to work, and also as the Most Powerful Name in News, speaks for itself.

But please don’t get me wrong: I am a political liberal. I voted for Barack Obama twice and would vote for him a third time if I could. I support Bill and Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and New York City’s new mayor, Bill DeBlasio. I don’t pretend to agree with, say, Sean Hannity, on much of anything, policy-wise — although I will say that he too is a nice guy in person. Wrong on every issue, but nice! 

At Fox, people are helpful to each other and no one cares what political orientation you might have — or any other kind of orientation. I am gay, but at Fox, no one cares one way or the other. In six years it has never been an issue — not one little bit. Indeed, in 2004, when I got engaged to be legally married in Massachusetts, Roger gave me a hug and said, “I wish you and all the happiness in the world.” Later, he and his wife, Beth, had my partner and me up to his house.

I count some Fox employees as being among my best friends in the world, including the many who attended my wedding in Cambridge, Rhonda Jenkins, Bill Shine and his wonderful wife, Darla, Peter Johnson, and Jim Pinkerton. They are not  homophobes; they are wonderful, loving people.

Indeed, Shine, Johnson, and Pinkerton all attended my wedding in Massachusetts in 2004, when I married my partner, Cholene Espinoza. If they are homophobes, I am a ham sandwich.

To be sure, plenty of people have plenty of different opinions on plenty of subjects at Fox — including marriage equality — and debate on-air is always lively and sometimes heated. But never has anyone who worked at Fox said anything nasty or intolerant to me.

Indeed, unique among big organizations that I have seen, everyone’s input is welcomed, from newbie technicians to veteran talent. Opinions flow freely throughout the organization — because Roger sets the tone. As I have heard him say, many times, to staffers, “You have a right to your own opinion; all I care about is that you are fair and balanced when you put on the news.” I know firsthand that plenty of people who work at Fox are Democrats; once again, the issue is the news on the air — not their private views, off-camera.

In addition, Fox is kind. The 2,000 or so employees at Fox have had their share of bad luck, tragedy, and yes, mistakes. Roger never refuses a meeting with any employee who needs help, and he has often been willing to reach into his own pocket to help out. From my experience, Bill Shine. the executive vice president of Fox News Channel. does the same.

Just as important, Fox is nice and generous to outsiders — even competitors. My sister-in-law, who works for a left-wing news organization, was given a great tour of the broadcast facilities in Manhattan, even though the express purpose of her tour was to gather ideas on how to set up her own TV studio. Afterward, she told me that she was struck by the friendliness of everyone there; believe you me, not every news outfit is like that.

Finally, Roger and Fox have helped me in my own charitable work, first in Mississippi in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and then, more recently, in the lovely but troubled country of South Sudan.

Roger, Bill and Fox News have made their mark, and they have made their contribution to America. They help keep us liberals on our toes, and that’s good for democracy, and for freedom. Most of all, even when I think they are wrong, they do what they do with personal kindness and grace.

Roger Ailes is no dinosaur; neither is Bill. To me, and I believe to everyone in the Fox family, regardless of sexual orientation, they are real mensches.

 

ELLEN RATNER is a news analyst for the Fox News Channel.