On the one hand, Suzanne Scott made history yesterday when she was appointed CEO of Fox News and Fox Business, as the first woman to head up a major cable news network. On the other, her 22-year tenure at Fox is inexorably tied to that of Roger Ailes, the founding chairman who was ousted amid a sexual harassment scandal in 2016 and died the following year.
Scott shares with her late boss a record that’s full of contradictions on gender issues. As former Fox commentator Sally Kohn recently remarked in Fast Company, “Roger Ailes ran the only program in cable news to hire and train women and people of color in the industry and, at the time, had one of the most racially diverse newsrooms I’d ever seen. On the other hand, we now know the same man horrifically harassed and assaulted many of the women he worked with and created a hostile work environment for women employees in general.”
Before her elevation to CEO this week, Scott worked in several programming, production, and creative positions. She was promoted to senior vice president in 2009 and remained in that role until co-president Bill Shine was removed last May (after being named in four lawsuits involving sexual harassment and racial bias). Taking over as president of programming, Scott helped the network maintain its ratings amid Bill O’Reilly’s departure (he, too, was accused of sexual harassment).
Scott has been responsible for major opinion shows on Fox including Hannity, Fox & Friends, Tucker Carlson Tonight, and The Ingraham Angle, the last two of which she launched. In addition, Scott co-created several programs featuring female hosts, like Outnumbered Overtime, The Story, and The Daily Briefing.
As Fox has tried to shift its internal culture in the wake of recent scandals, Scott has reportedly led several initiatives to advance women at the company. A study recently confirmed that Fox News online had more bylines by women than did competitors like CNN or HuffPo.
However, Scott has also been accused by former female Fox staffers of enforcing “an aesthetic that features skimpy dresses, high-heeled open-toed shoes, and big hair for the channel’s on-air women,” according to the Daily Beast, a charge she denies. She has also been cited in lawsuits (many of them settled) against the network for enabling and concealing Ailes’s behavior. (A Fox spokesperson adds that Scott denies these allegations, too.)
It remains to be seen how Scott’s tenure will bring the network forward and how–or whether–its culture might change with her at the helm.
Update: This post has been updated to note Scott’s denial of allegations of any involvement in the Ailes scandal.