These episodes are not mistakes or accidents; Ailes has always understood, perhaps better than most, that conflict is entertainment. But Carlson’s role, as a speaker of truth in this arena, was clearly more complex. She may have chided her hosts, from time to time, for dwelling on the shortness of her skirts. But her smile was her armor, and also her uniform. She wore her “Miss America” past proudly and unapologetically. And she embraced her assignment—to be if not quite a dumb blonde, then an innocent, peering at the world with wide-eyed wonder.
She did yeoman’s work, but the artifice showed. Jon Stewart once brilliantly lambasted her for dumbing herself down, gazing into the camera with a glassy-eyed stare that belied her Stanford and Oxford education, purporting not to know the meaning of such terms as “double-dip recession,” “czar,” and “ignoramus.” “How do you get a job on television if you appear to be one of those people who need to pin their address to their coat so a stranger can help them find their way home?” Stewart asked. Unless, he suggested, the doe-eyed routine was all an act.
It now appears that brushing off the gender jokes, with generous good nature, might have been artifice, too. The vigorous accusations in the lawsuit certainly make it seem that way—particularly the charge that, when she complained about Doocy’s behavior, Ailes called her a “man hater” who needed to learn “to get along with the boys.”