Hot Topics

Oct 13, 2016 | 0 comments

Article 1: “Fox Will Pay Gretchen Carlson $20 Million to Settle Sexual Harassment Suit”

http://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2016/09/06/492797695/fox-news-will-pay-gretchen-carlson-20-million-to-settle-sexual-harassment-suit

According to the article, two months after former Fox & Friends co-host Gretchen Carlson accused Fox News’ then-Chairman Roger Ailes of sexual harassment, the network’s parent company has agreed to pay Carlson $20 million and make a “highly unusual public apology.”

News of the settlement was first reported recently by Vanity Fair; a source with knowledge of the settlement then confirmed the deal, and the company later issued a statement about it.

“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,” 21st Century Fox says in part of that statement.

In another development at Fox News, longtime anchor Greta Van Susteren is leaving the network. The departure is immediate. Van Susteren “had initially dismissed” the seriousness of Carlson’s allegations.

As for Carlson, she recently tweeted, “I’m ready to move on to the next chapter in my life.”

“The accusations are not subtle,” David reported in July, describing Carlson’s lawsuit.

Here’s a brief summary from that report:

“In a lawsuit filed in a New Jersey civil court, lawyers for Carlson allege Ailes repeatedly dismissed her concerns that her colleagues on Fox & Friends had created a pervasively sexist atmosphere, telling her to learn to ‘get along with the boys.’

“When Carlson met with Ailes to complain, she alleges Ailes replied, ‘I think you and I should have had a sexual relationship a long time ago.’ The suit says Ailes explained, ‘Sometimes problems are easier to solve that way.’ In other conversations, Carlson contends, Ailes underscored what he could do for her career if she would look upon his invitations favorably. And she says he frequently ogled her, commenting on her figure and telling her to turn around so he could see her rear.”

Carlson, whose contract with Fox News expired in June, says her refusal of sexual advances led to recrimination that included a pay cut, a shift to a lower-profile afternoon show, and the lack of chances to conduct important interviews.

Ailes initially said Carlson’s “allegations are false” and that she had sued in retaliation after her contract wasn’t renewed. But two weeks after the suit was filed, Ailes resigned from his post as chairman and CEO of Fox News.

In the wake of Carlson’s suit, other women who worked at Fox came forward with similar allegations — including anchor Megyn Kelly, and Andrea Tantaros, the host of The Five, among others.

Problems at Fox News extended beyond Ailes, according to author Gabriel Sherman. Here’s some of what Sherman, who wrote a book about Ailes and the rise of Fox News, had to say:

“It’s not about Roger Ailes. It’s about a culture — a television news network that played an undeniable role in reshaping American politics over the last 20 years. And it was a culture where this type of behavior was encouraged and protected. The allegations are that women routinely had to sleep with or be propositioned by their manager — in many cases, Roger Ailes, but I’ve reported on another manager who did this — in exchange for promotions.

“And so this is a culture where women felt pressured to participate in sexual activity with their superiors if they wanted to advance inside the company. And it was so — it was shocking to me — it was not that it occurred, but that it was so explicit, that it was — there was no subtext.

There was no subtlety to it. It was just there. It was just almost blatantly stated. If you want this, you have to have sex with me or allow me to make sexually unwanted comments about you. And it was so blatant that it’s almost now unbelievable. But it — we’re learning more and more every day. This is what women who worked there had to endure for the last 20 years.”

Recently, both 21st Century Fox and Carlson issued statements about the settlement.

Here’s 21st Century Fox:

“21st Century Fox is pleased to announce that it has settled Gretchen Carlson’s lawsuit. During her tenure at Fox News, Gretchen exhibited the highest standards of journalism and professionalism. She developed a loyal audience and was a daily source of information for many Americans. We are proud that she was part of the Fox News team. 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.”

And here’s Carlson:

“I am gratified that 21st Century Fox took decisive action after I filed my Complaint. I’m ready to move on to the next chapter of my life in which I will redouble my efforts to empower women in the workplace. I want to thank all the brave women who came forward to tell their own stories and the many people across the country who embraced and supported me in their #StandWithGretchen. All women deserve a dignified and respectful workplace in which talent, hard work and loyalty are recognized, revered and rewarded.”

Discussion Questions

1. Define sexual harassment.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) website
(https://www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/sexual_harassment.cfm):

It is unlawful to harass a person (an applicant or employee) because of that person’s sex. Harassment can include “sexual harassment” or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.

Harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature, however, and can include offensive remarks about a person’s sex. For example, it is illegal to harass a woman by making offensive comments about women in general.

Both victim and the harasser can be either a woman or a man, and the victim and harasser can be the same sex.

Although the law doesn’t prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments, or isolated incidents that are not very serious, harassment is illegal when it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or when it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted).

The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer.

2. In your reasoned opinion, is the $20 million settlement amount reasonable? Why or why not?

This is an opinion question, so student responses may vary. It is important to note that this case was resolved by way of settlement, meaning that all parties involved consented to the terms of the settlement agreement, including the financial terms. In the “for what it’s worth” category, an online search of Gretchen Carlson’s salary at 21st Century Fox revealed that she received an annual salary of $800,000 prior to her termination of employment.

3. In terms of the $20 million settlement, 21st Century Fox will pay the entire settlement amount, while Roger Ailes will pay nothing. In your reasoned opinion, is this fair? Why or why not?

This is an opinion question, so student responses may vary. It is important to note that this case was resolved by way of settlement, meaning that all parties involved consented to the terms of the settlement agreement, including which party would pay the $20 million settlement amount. For some, it might be troubling to realize that the alleged offender, Roger Ailes, paid nothing toward Carlson’s sexual harassment case settlement and yet was paid $40 million from 21st Century Fox to leave the company (http://money.cnn.com/2016/07/21/media/roger-ailes-leaves-fox-news/).

Article 2: "Woman Uses Indiana Religious Objections Law in Defense against Child Abuse Charges"

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-woman-uses-indiana-religious- objections-law-in-defense-against-child-abuse-charges-20160831-story.html

According to the article, the attorney for a woman charged with child abuse for allegedly beating her son with a coat hanger says Indiana’s religious objections law gives her the right to discipline her children according to her evangelical Christian beliefs.

Kihn Par Thaing, 30, of Indianapolis was arrested in February on felony abuse and neglect charges after a teacher discovered her 7-year-old son’s injuries. Thaing is accused of beating her son with a coat hanger, leaving him with 36 bruises and red welts.

Her attorney, Greg Bowes, argues in court documents filed July 29 that the state shouldn’t interfere with Thaing’s right to raise her children as she deems appropriate. He cited Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act as part of her defense, saying it gives her the right to discipline her children according to her beliefs.

Court documents cite biblical Scripture and state that a parent who “spares the rod, spoils the child.”

Marion County Deputy Prosecutor Matt Savage said in an August 5 response that the boy’s beating went “beyond these religious instructions” and said Indiana’s compelling interest in preventing child abuse outweighs religious protections in state law.

Indiana’s religious objections law, signed by Republican Gov. Mike Pence last year, prohibits government entities from substantially burdening religious liberties, unless by the least restrictive means to further a compelling government interest.

But nothing in the law specifically mentions parenting and the statute hasn’t yet been substantially tested in the courts.

Bowes also cites in his client’s defense a 2008 Indiana Supreme Court decision that affirmed the parental right to discipline children in ways parents consider appropriate, even when others could deem that behavior as excessive.

According to court documents, Thaing said she stopped her son from dangerous behavior on February 3 that would have seriously harmed his 3-year-old sister and hit both children with a plastic coat hanger before telling them to pray for forgiveness.

Child welfare officials took the children into their care in February, but it’s unclear where they are now. Bowes’ attorney and a spokeswoman for Marion County’s prosecutor said they could not comment on the children’s whereabouts.

Thaing, who faces an October 19 trial, is a refugee from Myanmar, a Southeast Asian nation also known as Burma, and was granted political asylum in the U.S. She cited cultural differences between the two countries as part of her defense.

Elaisa Vahnie, the executive director of the Burmese American Community Institute in Indianapolis, said what might be seen as a crime in Indiana may be considered typical parenting in Myanmar.

“Sometimes you use a stick to correct them (in Myanmar). That’s very normal,” she said.

Discussion Questions

1. Describe the “Free Exercise” Clause of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. 


According to the specific language of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof (emphasis added).

Our Founding Fathers included the Free Exercise Clause to promote freedom of religion in the United States.

2. As the article indicates, Indiana’s religious objections law, signed by Republican Governor Mike Pence in 2015, prohibits government entities from substantially burdening religious liberties, unless by the least restrictive means to further a compelling government interest. In your reasoned opinion, how does this law apply to the subject case?

In your author’s opinion, even though Indiana’s religious objections law is designed to further promote religious freedom in the “Hoosier State,” the law by its own terms does not condone absolute, unrestricted religious freedom. Instead, by its own terms, the state may restrict religious freedom by the “least restrictive means” in order to further a “compelling government interest.” In your author’s opinion, child welfare is a compelling government interest, and reasonable governmental oversight of parental methods and manners of child punishment would constitute the least restrictive means by which to further such an interest.

3. In your reasoned opinion, should Kihn Par Thaing be held criminally responsible for child abuse? Why or why not?

This is an opinion question, so student responses may vary. In your author’s opinion, the fact that Kihn Par Thaing is from Myanmar (where, according to the author, parents sometimes use a “stick” to “correct” children), should have no bearing on the case; instead, Thaing should be judged based on standards of reasonableness for child punishment recognized in the United States.

Article 3: “Obama Nominates First Muslim Federal Judge”

http://www.cnn.com/2016/09/07/politics/obama-nominates-first-muslim-judge/index.html

According to the article, President Barack Obama has nominated a Washington lawyer to the U.S. District Court bench who would become the country’s first Muslim-American federal judge if he is confirmed.

Abid Riaz Qureshi is a lawyer at the Latham & Watkins law firm in Washington, specializing in health care fraud and securities violations, according to the White House. Obama nominated him to serve on the US District Court for the District of Columbia.

“I am pleased to nominate Mr. Qureshi to serve on the United States District Court bench,” Obama said in a statement. “I am confident he will serve the American people with integrity and a steadfast commitment to justice.”

Muslim-American activists hailed the President’s move.

“The nomination of Abid Qureshi to fill a seat on the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia sends a message of inclusion that is welcomed by the American Muslim community and by all Americans who value diversity and mutual respect at a time when some seek division and discord,” said Nihad Awad, the National Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

Obama has made diversity a priority in his judicial nominations. He’s appointed more women, African-Americans and Hispanics to the federal bench than his predecessors, and also worked to name judges with a wider array of work experience.

But the Senate has been slow in confirming Obama’s nominees, and halted any progress on judicial nominations until after Obama’s term ends in January, including Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland.

That makes it unlikely Qureshi will be confirmed in the months left of Obama’s tenure, unless lawmakers take up his nomination in a lame duck session.

Discussion Questions

1. With regard to the judiciary, discuss the importance of diversity.

Diversity in the judiciary is arguably more democratic and representative of the people as a whole. It is also consistent with the basic notion of the Civil Rights Act, that no one should be subjected to race, gender, national origin, cultural, or religious discrimination.

2. As the article indicates, the United States Senate has been slow in confirming President Obama’s judicial nominees. In your reasoned opinion, does the Senate have a good faith obligation to consider the president’s judicial nominees? Why or why not?

Arguably, the Senate has a good-faith obligation to consider the president’s judicial nominees, regardless of the political affiliation of the president and Senate leadership. In your author’s opinion, a judicial nomination should not be delayed or rejected purely on political grounds; instead, the exclusive “litmus test” for any judicial candidate should be the candidate’s qualifications and fitness to serve. If politics becomes the litmus test, and if both parties “play the game” of politics, our judicial system would eventually come to a grinding halt!

3. As the article indicates, it is unlikely that Qureshi will be confirmed in the months left of Obama’s tenure, unless lawmakers take up his nomination in a “lame duck” session (the period of time after the election and before the new president takes office and the new Senate convenes). Why would lawmakers take up Qureshi’s nomination in a lame duck session?

Assuming that Qureshi’s nomination is not being currently considered for political reasons, lawmakers might consider his nomination in a “lame duck” session if the opposing candidate wins the presidential election and Senate leadership believes that the new president would offer up an even more “unsuitable” (for political purposes) candidate. The same could be said for current United States Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland. In terms of Supreme Court nominees, Judge Garland has the distinction of waiting the longest for a United States Senate hearing to consider his nomination. That wait might come to an abrupt end if Hillary Clinton is elected president of the United States. There is already some talk that if she is indeed elected, the Senate will take up Judge Garland’s nomination in the “lame duck” period leading up to her “swearing in” ceremony on January 20, 2017.