Gretchen Carlson

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Gretchen Carlson
Gretchen carlson cropped retouched.jpg
Carlson in 2006
Gretchen Elizabeth Carlson

(1966-06-21) June 21, 1966 (age 52)[1]
ResidenceGreenwich, Connecticut
Alma materStanford University
  • Author
  • television host
PredecessorKaye Lani Rae Rafko
SuccessorDebbye Turner
Casey Close (m. 1997)

Gretchen Elizabeth Carlson (born June 21, 1966[1]) is an American television commentator and author and the chairwoman of the Miss America board of directors. Carlson was crowned the 1989 Miss America while representing her native state of Minnesota. She graduated from Stanford University with honors before embarking on a career in television. Gaining experience as anchor and reporter for several local network affiliates, she joined CBS News as a correspondent in 2000 and became the co-host of the Saturday edition of The Early Show. In 2005, she moved to Fox News Channel and became the co-host of the morning show Fox & Friends along with Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade. In 2013, she announced her departure from Fox & Friends and soon thereafter launched a new program called The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson. Her autobiography, Getting Real, was published in 2015 by Viking.

Her contract with Fox News expired on June 23, 2016. On July 6, she filed a lawsuit against then Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes claiming sexual harassment.[3] Subsequently, dozens of other women also stepped forward to accuse Ailes of harassment,[4] and Ailes was forced to resign under pressure.[5] In September 2016, Carlson and 21st Century Fox settled the lawsuit for $20 million.[6]

Early life[edit]

Carlson was raised in a Lutheran family in Anoka, Minnesota, the daughter of Karen Barbara (Hyllengren) and Lee Roy Carlson.[7][8] She is of Swedish descent.[9] Her father owned a car dealership with her uncle.[7] She has two brothers and one sister.[7] Her grandfather was the pastor of the then second-largest Lutheran church in the United States.[10] She graduated from Anoka-Hennepin School District 11's Anoka High School, where she was a 1984 class valedictorian.[11] One of her childhood nannies was Michele Bachmann, the future Republican congresswoman.[12]

Growing up, Carlson was an accomplished violinist, winning numerous local and national competitions. She performed as a soloist with the Minnesota Orchestra as an 8th grader and was the concertmistress for the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphony. She spent five summers studying at the prestigious Aspen Music Festival and School in Aspen. Winner of several concerto competitions at the MacPhail Center for Music in Minneapolis, she was also featured as a soloist with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra.[13]

In 1984, Carlson was elected as one of the Anoka Homecoming attendants.[13] She won the title of Miss Minnesota in 1988 [14] and became the third woman from Minnesota to win the Miss America title. For the talent competition, she played Zigeunerweisen, the violin composition of Pablo de Sarasate.

Carlson graduated from Stanford University, where she studied organizational behavior.[15] While there, she spent a study-abroad year at Oxford University, studying the works of Virginia Woolf.[15]

In September 2011, Carlson was named to the inaugural class of the Anoka High School Hall of Fame.[13][16]


Carlson greeting President Ronald Reagan in 1988

Carlson originally gained recognition as the co-anchor of the Saturday edition of The Early Show on CBS along with Russ Mitchell. She joined CBS News as a correspondent in 2000 and began working on The Early Show in 2002. Before her tenure at CBS, she served as a weekend anchor and reporter for KXAS-TV in Fort Worth, Texas, and was an anchor and reporter at WOIO-TV in Cleveland, Ohio, and for WCPO-TV, in Cincinnati. She began her television career in Richmond, Virginia, as a political reporter for WRIC-TV.[17] She began her media career in a franchise called Neighborhood News.

She was moved to Fox & Friends initially as a weekend substitute host. But on September 25, 2006, a shifting of anchors, which included E.D. Hill moving to the 10 a.m. hour of Fox News Live, opened a weekday slot on Fox & Friends, which she filled. She co-hosted with Steve Doocy and Brian Kilmeade for several years. She left Fox & Friends in September 2013 to anchor a one-hour daytime program, The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson, beginning in the fall of 2013, taking part of the slot opened by Megyn Kelly's move to primetime.[18][19]

On Fox & Friends, during a January 10, 2007, interview with Dan Bartlett, counselor to then-president George W. Bush, Carlson labeled Democratic U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy a "hostile enemy" of the United States, "right here on the home front". Bartlett replied, "Well, we don't view Ted Kennedy as a hostile enemy. We do view him to be an open and often critic of the war. He has been from the very outset. I don't think that's anything new." Keith Olbermann chose her as that day's "Worst Person in the World" on that night's broadcast of his show Countdown,[20] while Howard Kurtz of The Washington Post called it "the Fox News exchange of the day" and asked, "Doesn't the Constitution allow for dissent?"[21]

Sexual harassment lawsuit settlement and A&E[edit]

On the morning of July 6, 2016, Carlson confirmed on her Twitter account that she was no longer with Fox News. That day, she filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Fox News chairman Roger Ailes in the Superior Court of New Jersey.[22] In her complaint, Carlson alleged that she was fired from her program for refusing Ailes' sexual advances.[22]

Carlson's allegations received widespread media coverage.[23] After Carlson came forward, six more women spoke to Gabriel Sherman of New York magazine, alleging that Ailes had sexually harassed them and that Ailes had "spoke openly of expecting women to perform sexual favors in exchange for job opportunities."[24] Shortly thereafter, Carlson sat down for an interview with John Koblin of The New York Times, saying, "I wanted to stand up for other women who maybe faced similar circumstances."[25]

As the case progressed, Carlson reached out directly to her fans, thanking them in a series of Twitter videos[26][27] and offering her support for fellow victims of sexual harassment.[28] She also criticized Fox's attempt to force her claims to be adjudicated via closed-door mandatory arbitration rather than in court. (Fox filed court papers arguing that Carlson was compelled by her contract to adjudicate her claims in arbitration).[29] Carlson said: "Forcing victims of sexual harassment into secret arbitration proceedings is wrong, because it means nobody finds out what really happened."[29]

Facing overwhelming public criticism, Ailes resigned on July 21, 2016.[30] In an interview with Margaret Sullivan of The Washington Post, Carlson said she felt "relief that now I would be believed," though she also "felt angry that it took so long" for Ailes to step down.[31]

On September 6, 2016, 21st Century Fox announced that it had settled the lawsuit with Carlson. The settlement was reportedly $20 million. As part of the settlement, 21st Century Fox apologized to Carlson, saying that "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."[6]

In April 2018, Carlson reached a first-look development deal with A&E Networks, under which she would host three documentary specials across its channels, such as Lifetime. Her first, The Brave, will focus on workplace sexual harassment against women.[32][33]

Miss America Controversy[edit]

On January 1, 2018, Carlson was elected chairwoman of the board of directors of the Miss America Organization.[34]

After a few months into her tenure as Chair of the Board of Miss America, 22 states held a vote of no confidence[35] in the leadership of both Carlson and CEO Regina Hopper demanding their resignations, citing a lack of transparency and adherence to best practices.[36] The calls for resignation came as several board members abruptly were forced to resign. Former Miss Americas Kate Shindle and Laura Kaeppeler Fleiss listed "toxic culture" as their reason for departing from the board in June 2018. Former Miss North Carolina Jennifer Vaden Barth and Former Miss Maine Valerie Crooker Clemens, detailed they were forced to resign when Carlson issued a letter stating they were trying to gain control of the organization, the Wall Street Journal reported.[35]

On August 10, 2018, 11 former Miss Americas released a statement[37] calling for both Carlson and Hopper to resign. The former Miss Americas say that following an email scandal[38] that resulted in the exit of the former CEO and chairman of the board in December, they were given the opportunity to install "our very own sisters." Former titleholders assumed temporary co-chair roles on the board. From there, Carlson was supposed to head up a national search to find a new CEO.[37] The letter continued on to say that Carlson "selected the sole candidate for board consideration and together they have taken the organization in a direction that we do not condone."[37]  Hopper helped orchestrate[38] the removal of previous leadership by leaking emails to the attention of Dick Clark Productions, which eventually dropped the organization.[39]

The group that signed the letter includes Suzette Charles, who served several weeks as Miss America 1984 after Vanessa Williams resigned over a nude photo scandal, and Kate Shindle, Miss America 1998, who resigned from the Miss America board this summer.  The other signees were Marjorie Vincent-Tripp, Miss America 1991, who recently resigned from her post as chairwoman of the Miss America Foundation's board of trustees; Laura Kaeppeler Fleiss, Miss America 2012, who recently resigned from the board of the Miss America Organization; Carolyn Sapp Daniels, Miss America 1992; Heather Whitestone McCallum, Miss America 1995; Nicole Johnson, Miss America 1999; Angela Baraquio Grey, Miss America 2001; Ericka Dunlap, Miss America 2004; and Caressa Cameron-Jackson, Miss America 2010.[37] In August 2018, Miss America 2018 Cara Mund wrote a letter to her fellow Miss America titleholders alleging that Carlson and Hopper "silenced me, reduced me, marginalized me, and essentially erased me in my role as Miss America."[40] Mund went on to say that after the new board took over in January, she "was given three talking points" and told to stick to them: That "Miss America is relevant"; that "the #MeToo movement started with a Miss America"; and that both she and Carlson were graduates of elite colleges.[41]

Community outreach[edit]

Carlson is a longtime supporter of Miss You Can Do It, a pageant with an emphasis "not on looks but courage."[42] Founded by Abbey Curran, a former Miss Iowa USA winner who was born with cerebral palsy, the pageant honors girls and young women who live with special needs and challenges.[43] It was the subject of an HBO documentary in 2013.

In 2016, Carlson served as the pageant's MC.[44] When its organizers fell short of their fundraising goals (threatening the cancellation of the pageant), Carlson volunteered to cover the remaining expenses. On social media, the pageant thanked her for "saving Miss You Can Do It."[45]

In 2017, Carlson partnered with the nonprofit organization All In Together to sponsor the Gretchen Carlson Leadership Initiative, a program meant to "bring civic leadership and advocacy training to thousands of underserved women across the country, with a special focus on empowering women who have experienced gender-based violence, discrimination, or harassment."[46] The initiative has hosted six community engagement workshops since its founding.

Personal life[edit]

On October 4, 1997, Carlson married sports agent Casey Close.[47][48] They live in Greenwich, Connecticut,[49] with their two children.[9][50]

She announced on Fox & Friends on June 9, 2009, also repeated on Glenn Beck's Fox News program, that her parents' car dealership had been selected for closure as part of the General Motors reorganization and bankruptcy.[51][52] A year later the Star Tribune reported that "It took an act of Congress, a national TV appeal and maybe a little bit of history on the owners' side, but Main Motor, the Anoka car dealership that Lee and Karen Carlson's family has owned for 91 years, will keep its General Motors dealership after all."[53]


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  8. ^
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  41. ^ Parry, Wayne. "Reigning Miss America says she was bullied, manipulated by pageant leadership". Retrieved 2018-08-17.
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  47. ^ Going Deep: Casey Close, Alan Schwarz,, February 9, 2007
  48. ^ "Minnesota Marriage Collection, 1958–2001". Retrieved November 30, 2010.
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  50. ^ "Former Michigan baseball star Casey Close remains true to himself, makes a name as a top agent". Ann Arbor News. Retrieved December 24, 2014.
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  53. ^ Levy, Paul. Carlsons get their car franchise back, Minneapolis Star Tribune, May 6, 2010.


External links[edit]

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Kaye Lani Rae Rafko
Miss America
Succeeded by
Debbye Turner
Preceded by
Katherine Killeen
Miss Minnesota
Succeeded by
Susan Johnson