- Fox News’ Jesse Watters said in a recent episode of “The Five” that female journalists sleep with sources for a scoop “all the time.”
- Backlash ensued on Twitter and among advocacy groups for women in media, who told Jeremy Barr of The Hollywood Reporter that Watters’ comments are harmful and disrespectful.
- Watters’ comments come in response to the upcoming movie, “Richard Jewell,” which depicts a female journalist trading sex for information.
- The movie is based on a true story, but critics said the movie takes “dramatic license” with this portrayal.
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Fox News’ Jesse Watters elicited backlash after claiming that it’s common for female journalists to trade sex for a scoop.
He made the comments on Wednesday’s episode of the daily talk show “The Five” in response to the controversy surrounding the upcoming movie “Richard Jewell,” which depicts a female journalist sleeping with a source to get information for a story, Jeremy Barr reported for The Hollywood Reporter.
Female journalists sleep with sources “all the time,” Watters said, citing the romantic relationship New York Times’ reporter Ali Watkins had with a top government staffer while reporting on national security.
“So, it happens a lot, and it happens a lot in movies and TV shows,” Watters added.
When co-host Juan Williams took issue with the comment, Watters replied: “I don’t say most women reporters. Male reporters could do it, too. I’m just saying it happens. I’m saying it’s happened many times in the past.”
It fueled a wave of backlash among advocacy groups for women in media, who expressed their disgust to Barr by deeming Watters’ comments “misogynistic” and “an insult,” calling Watters himself a “gaslighting gasbag.”
“In reality, women journalists are more likely to be sexually harassed by their sources and face verbal abuse and threats online,” Carolyn McGourty Supple, co-founder of group Press Forward, told Barr. “This is what drives female journalists around the world to leave the field when they are already underrepresented in the press.”
Watters’ comments also took Twitter by storm, where current and former female journalists shared their outrage. “This is a really disgusting, baseless charge, and one Fox should denounce for the sake of its own female reporters,” tweeted conservative CNN anchor S.E. Cupp.
—S.E. Cupp (@secupp) December 12, 2019
CNN veteran Carol Costello also shared her thoughts on the matter.
—Carol Costello (@CarolC) December 12, 2019
As did those who don’t work in the media industry.
—Sergio Síano (@siano4progress) December 14, 2019
—Beth Levine (@BethLevine75) December 13, 2019
“Richard Jewell,” which is based on the true story of Kathy Scrugg’s Centennial Olympic Park bombing investigation, has been slammed by critics for its portrayal of female journalists.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution newspaper, which employed Scruggs before her death in 2001, accused the film of taking “dramatic license,” maintaining that there was no evidence of an affair between Scruggs and an FBI source, reported Brent Lang for Variety. They asked Warner Bros., the producers of the film, to include a disclaimer.
Warner Bros. called the newspapers’ claims “baseless” and defended its portrayal. So, too, did Olivia Wilde, who played the female reporter in question. In a series of tweets, she said she understood it to be a pre-existing romantic relationship, not a transactional exchange of sex for information.
“Contrary to a swath of recent headlines, I do not believe that Kathy ‘traded sex for tips,'” Wilde wrote “Nothing in my research suggested she did so, and it was never my intention to suggest she had. That would be an appalling and misogynistic dismissal of the difficult work she did.”