Chat with ... Gabriel Sherman, Vanity Fair special correspondent and native Westporter
WESTPORT — Gabriel Sherman’s book on the late Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes details several accounts of women who allege the media giant sexually harassed them. At the time of the book’s release in 2014, however, the story of abused women in Sherman’s book went largely unnoticed, even discredited by some outlets.
Sherman’s book, “The Loudest Voice in the Room: How the Brilliant, Bombastic Roger Ailes Built Fox News — And Divided a Country,” was subjected to an intense smear campaign by Ailes and other Fox executives and, in Sherman’s own word, was “trashed” in a 2014 review in the New York Times.
“That’s how power works,” Sherman said.
Sherman, 38, who grew up in Westport, but resides in New York City, said he didn’t realize it would be a while for the public to catch up in regard to the sexual harassment doled out by Ailes.
“There were people who were helping this story come out. It just took longer than I imagined,” Sherman said.
In July 2016, former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson became one of the people to help unearth the story when she filed a suit against Ailes, alleging he terminated her for refusing his sexual advances. Shortly after, Sherman reported in New York Magazine that Megyn Kelly said Ailes made unwanted sexual advances toward her when she was a young Fox correspondent.
Two days later, Ailes left Fox News, but that didn’t stop Sherman from writing another New York Magazine article reporting former Fox News booker Laurie Luhn said she was
harassed by Ailes for more than 20 years.
The week of Ailes’ demise corresponded with the July 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, where Sherman was reporting for New York Magazine. At the convention, Sherman said women from Fox News came up to tell him they too were harassed by Ailes. By the time Sherman left Cleveland, the #Me Too revolution had begun.
“I just sat down on the plane, and I was a mixture of exhaustion and emotion and remember tears streaming down my face. I’m not an emotional person, but I think the gravity of what had happened hit me and that was the time I realized this was so much bigger than I ever thought it was going to be,” Sherman said.
From the many allegations of sexual harassment against Ailes, Sherman said other reporters were inspired to look into the supposed open secret of sexual harassment in the workplace at the hands of powerful men. Hence the investigation into Harvey Weinstein, and several other men who perpetrated acts of sexual harassment in and out of work.
Despite his reporting’s contribution to the #Me Too movement, Sherman said he never set out to uncover Ailes’ abuse of women; that’s just where the story took him. If Sherman’s reporting on Ailes’ harassment represented any trend in his career, however, it’s Sherman’s dogged pursuit of truth.
“I used it as a form of motivation that the more people were attacking me, the more I felt there was a real story there. If Ailes wasn’t hiding something, why would he be pushing back so hard?,” Sherman said.
Raised in Westport since the age of 6, Sherman attended Westport public schools through freshman year of high school, but finished the next three years of high school at the Holderness School in New Hampshire to be closer to the mountains were he was a competitive skier.
A graduate of Middlebury College, Sherman didn’t become seriously involved in journalism until a year out of college, when he worked as a freelance fact-checker for a magazine in New York and realized he wanted to be on the other side of the editing process and do the reporting himself.
Sherman scored a job reporting on New York City’s most expensive real-estate deals for the New York Observer. One of the big characters on the real estate beat at the time was Donald Trump, who, Sherman said, was unlike other top real estate executives, in that you could call Trump’s office and he’d get on the phone with you right away and give you gossip.
“There was actually a rule at the paper that we couldn’t quote him in articles because he was so overexposed at the time. To think this guy is now president still blows my mind,” Sherman said.
From the real estate beat, Sherman went on to cover media, first at the Observer and later for New York Magazine and now Vanity Fair, where he became a special correspondent following the 2016 election. Much of Sherman’s reporting on the media over the last 10 years has crossed into the realm of political journalism because he said media and politics are not mutually exclusive, especially in the Trump administration, which Sherman said runs like a media company in many ways.
The chaos of reporting on the Trump administration is made easier by the presence of his wife of seven years and his 9-month-old daughter, Sherman said.
“She’s so wide-eyed and everything is new to her, and so I try to see the world through her eyes. The human experience is so much bigger than whatever moment we’re living in, so even if I have just been screamed at by the White House press office, I’ll come home and look at her, and she’s oblivious to it all. It’s a nice break,” Sherman said.
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