Leadership

How Gretchen Carlson's lawsuit against Fox News inspired her teenage daughter to stand up for herself

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Slaven Vlasic | Getty Image

The day Gretchen Carlson announced the settlement of her sexual harassment lawsuit against Fox News' CEO Roger Ailes — reportedly for $20 million and an apology from parent company 21st Century Fox — it was also her kids' first day back to school after summer break, Sept. 6, 2016.

At school, a teacher asked Carlson's 14-year-old daughter, Kaia, to stand in front of her current events class and explain to the other kids what had happened to her mom.

"Just as I was going to call the school," says Carlson, speaking on a panel at Cosmopolitan's Let's Talk About It event, her daughter stopped her.

"She said, 'Mommy, that made me so proud.'"

Carlson filed suit against Ailes, who has since died, alleging he pushed for her termination after she denied his sexual advances. Carlson worked for Fox for 11 years, with roles as a host on "Fox and Friends" and "The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson."

Not only was Kaia proud, but seeing her mom stand up to bullies in the business world gave the teen the courage to do the same in her own life.

Kaia had been struggling with some classmates — "We all remember growing up with mean girls, right?" Carlson says. Kaia told Carlson that after watching her take on Fox, she went to those girls and stood up for herself.

"She said, 'Mommy, I did it because I saw you do it,'" recalls Carlson.

Carlson says it was her parents who instilled courage in her. "I grew up with parents who told me every day that I could be anything I wanted to be and that is where it started."

Still, her "major concern in making this biggest decision of my life" was how it was going to affect Kaia, and her brother, Christian, now 12, says Carlson. "I did not want them to face any injustice in the world because of something that I did."

Instead, Carlson now knows, "That is how we pass along the gift of courage to each other. My story was one woman jumping off of a cliff. But we saw so many other women then come forward and do the same thing. And in giving the gift of courage to my own child, she is going to pass that along to other people."

"I hope it is contagious," she says.

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