Gretchen Carlson Is 'Breaking the Silence' on Workplace Sexual Harassment in Lifetime Doc

Jessica Napoli
Q&A

Gretchen Carlson has a new two-hour Lifetime documentary, Gretchen Carlson: Breaking the Silence, premiering on Monday, January 14, which focuses on the "every woman's" experience with sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace.

From standing up against a fast food giant to questioning reported behavior at local fire department in Virginia, Carlson travels across the country to tell these women's stories of sexual misconduct, bullying and more.

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"I want to honor these women because their stories are relevant as well," she tells TV Insider about her first project with A+E Originals/Lifetime. She has two more documentaries in the works with the network. Read on for more from our interview with the journalist and advocate.

Why was this the right time to work on this project?

Gretchen Carlson: It's an extension of my book Be Fierce, where I documented a lot of women's stories. All these women had reached out to me after my story [of her sexual harassment lawsuit against Fox News' Roger Ailes] broke and I was like, 'This is an epidemic.' It was from very profession, every socioeconomic class, every race. We spent a few months researching and honing in on those stories we wanted to cover. I spent much of the summer and fall traveling across the country doing interviews.

This documentary is about the every woman's story. A lot of attention has been focused on journalists or famous Hollywood actresses but there are maybe millions of other women who have never had their stories told — the fast food worker, the fire chief, and the woman who works at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Gretchen and Lisa

We also learn about you and your family. Why open up like that?

It was really, really important to me to have the approval of my parents. It was really important for me to know I have their support. I think it shows the authenticity of what I went through. I may have been on national TV but it was still raw and emotional for me as a daughter and my parents, too. It was important to showcase that so people have an understanding of how it affects the whole family. I'm not afraid to show my own personal emotions. The biggest compliment someone can give me is that I'm still the same small town girl from Minnesota. That I'm still relatable and real.

Do you think viewers will be surprised at some industries or companies you cover?

When you have big powerful companies, it takes bravery to do reporting on them. Those women had told their stories to another television entity and it was never run. So I had to build trust with them — that I would follow through. They were weary so we went down there in person.

People might think I don't have a lot in common with some of the women that I'm profiling, but we actually have a lot in common because we share this experience in our lives. They knew that I got them, that I understood.

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What did you learn personally after working on this?

I think it's time for some introspection — are we doing enough to make workplaces safe for everyone? Is zero tolerance really enough? Policies mean nothing. Actions mean everything. I'm really hopeful that after watching this, there can be change and more companies will make those changes even if the law isn't forcing them to do it.

There's so much more work for companies to do with training, with the way in which they treat employees when they come forward — that really needs to be shifted on its head. Right now, when people come forward, they can still be seen as a trouble maker instead of honoring them for coming forward.

Do you see yourself moving back into hosting and anchoring or continue producing?

I have a production deal with Lifetime, so we still have two more docs under this deal and they're not necessarily going to be about harassment. I'm open to everything but I have to tell you, I really, really enjoyed getting back into long-form investigative kind of work.  It was great to use those skills again. I enjoyed not having those day-to-day deadlines and I think it's always important to challenge yourself to do something new.

Gretchen Carlson: Breaking the Silence, Premieres, Monday, January 14, 8/7c, Lifetime