NEW YORK -- Former Fox News Channel anchor Gretchen Carlson sued network chief executive Roger Ailes on Wednesday, claiming she was fired after she refused his sexual advances.
Fox News representatives did not immediately return requests for comment on the lawsuit, which was filed in Superior Court in New Jersey's Bergen County. A spokesperson for 21st Century Fox released the following statement Wednesday afternoon:
"The Company has seen the allegations against Mr. Ailes and Mr. Doocy. We take these matters seriously. While we have full confidence in Mr. Ailes and Mr. Doocy, who have served the company brilliantly for over two decades, we have commenced an internal review of the matter."
Late Wednesday, FOX News Chairman & CEO Roger Ailes issued this statement:
"Gretchen Carlson's allegations are false. This is a retaliatory suit for the network's decision not to renew her contract, which was due to the fact that her disappointingly low ratings were dragging down the afternoon lineup. When Fox News did not commence any negotiations to renew her contract, Ms. Carlson became aware that her career with the network was likely over and conveniently began to pursue a lawsuit. Ironically, FOX News provided her with more on-air opportunities over her 11 year tenure than any other employer in the industry, for which she thanked me in her recent book. This defamatory lawsuit is not only offensive, it is wholly without merit and will be defended vigorously."
Carlson, the former host of a daytime show at Fox, alleged Ailes had retaliated against her because of complaints she had made about discrimination and harassment. The 11-year Fox employee was anchoring a 2 p.m. show when she said she was fired on June 23 at the end of her contract.
She said her firing came nine months after Ailes told her during a meeting that "you and I should have had a sexual relationship a long time ago."
The 50-year-old Carlson was Miss America in 1989.
She alleged in the lawsuit that Ailes, who is 76, ogled her, repeatedly commented about her legs, urged her to wear clothes that enhanced her figure and told her she was sexy but "too much hard work."
Carlson said she was fired as a host of the morning show "Fox & Friends" in 2013, and her pay reduced with the transfer to a daytime slot, because she had complained about sexual harassment.
She said that one of her "Fox & Friends" co-hosts, Steve Doocy, "had created a hostile work environment by regularly treating her in a sexist and condescending way." She said that when Ailes heard of her complaints, he called her a "man hater" who needed to learn to "get along with the boys."
Carlson said that Ailes punished her by cutting back on political interviews that she conducted and ending a regular appearance she made on Bill O'Reilly's prime-time program, generally Fox's highest-rated show.
"I have strived to empower women and girls throughout my entire career," Carlson said in a statement. "Although this was a difficult step to take, I had to stand up for myself and speak out for all women and the next generation of women in the workplace."
Two days after the June 12 Orlando, Florida, nightclub massacre, Carlson told viewers that she supported reinstating a ban on assault weapons. The next day, she revealed Fox viewers had profanely attacked her, and she read some of the cleaner responses on the air.
The lawsuit asks for an unspecified amount of payment for damages.