March 20, 2018

Media Memo: At the Fox News Site, a Sudden Focus on Women as Sex Offenders

Nearly 30 percent of the articles posted under’s “Sex Crimes” category between July and December were focused on female teachers, with many of them promoted near the top of the site’s home page.

Leilah Gilligan of the Center for Sex Offender Management — a project organized by the Department of Justice that was cited in’s alarm-sounding article in June — said she was not aware of any data showing that the sexual abuse of male students by female teachers was on the rise.

Fewer than 9 percent of reported episodes of child sexual abuse are perpetrated by women, according to the Child Maltreatment Report, an annual survey of crimes against minors produced by the Department of Health and Human Services, when it last released such data in 2013. Franca Cortoni, a professor at the University of Montreal who researches female sexual offenders, said, “There is no evidence whatsoever that suddenly more women teachers are having sex with their male students.”

Much of the coverage coincided with the rise of the #MeToo movement, which prompted a wave of women to disclose past episodes of sexual harassment. Mr. Kotch said that the number of posts on the subject since his arrival was small compared with the volume of articles the site has published on sexual misbehavior by men, including the film mogul Harvey Weinstein.

“We aren’t shying away from focusing on sexual harassment in the workplace,” Mr. Kotch said.’s increased coverage of sex crimes allegedly committed by women began two months after the network ousted one of its prime-time anchors, Bill O’Reilly — a move made in the wake of a New York Times report that Mr. O’Reilly and the Fox News parent company, 21st Century Fox, had paid $13 million in confidential settlements to women who had complained about his behavior. (A subsequent Times investigation showed that the settlements involving Mr. O’Reilly totaled $45 million. Mr. O’Reilly has denied the allegations.)

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Mr. Kotch said that the uptick in stories on the subject was not related to Fox News’s own sexual harassment issues, which burst into the open in 2016 with the forced departure of the Fox News chairman and chief executive Roger E. Ailes.

Mr. Ailes, who died in May, left the network he had helped create after Gretchen Carlson, a former Fox News anchor, sued him for sexual harassment. The anchor Megyn Kelly was another prominent Fox News figure to make an exit, when she went to NBC last year. In her memoir, “Settle for More,” Ms. Kelly accused Mr. Ailes of making “offers of professional advancement in exchange for sexual favors.”

Weeks after cutting ties with Mr. O’Reilly, the network said goodbye to its co-president, Bill Shine, who was accused of having dismissed complaints made by women about Mr. Ailes.


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(Fox News has made structural changes in response to these incidents, such as hiring a new head of human resources and appointing new leaders for recruiting and diversity.)

Mr. Kotch, the website editor, was reportedly recruited personally by Rupert Murdoch, who has been the acting chief executive officer of Fox News since Mr. Ailes’s dismissal. Before joining Fox, Mr. Kotch served as the publisher of Heat Street, a site owned by News Corporation that was absorbed into Dow Jones’s MarketWatch last summer.

The size of the staff has approximately doubled since Mr. Kotch started his new job, according to a Fox News spokeswoman. In January, digital operations moved into new quarters built on the site of Mr. Ailes’s old office. Recently, Mr. Kotch sent a celebratory memo to his staff noting that’s January web traffic had for the first time surpassed that of

Many of the Fox News site’s articles on sex abuse involving female teacher have been republished by The New York Post, the Murdoch-controlled tabloid. The Post published at least 90 stories on the subject last year, 30 of them sourced to Fox News. Its main tabloid rival, The New York Daily News, has also covered the topic heavily.

The Times could find no reporting on sexual abuse by female teachers on the sites of Fox News’s television competitors MSNBC, CNN, NBC or ABC. CBS has run a few stories on the issue, including a 61-page slide show published in July featuring “notorious teacher sex scandals,” as has The Washington Post.

After published 10 more articles on the subject in early January, there was a drought. But the site returned to the subject with the Feb. 28 story of a female science teacher in Florida who, according to the police, “sent nudes” to and “had sex romps” with a 14-year-old boy. It continued the next day, with a story on a female teacher who was arrested in North Carolina and charged with having sex with a “teen boy.”

Jonathan Galinsky is part of the newsroom strategy team at The New York Times. Follow him on Twitter: @JonGalinsky.

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