First Amendment Leadership Award

This award is presented to a business or government leader or other individual who has made a significant contribution to the protection of the First Amendment and freedom of the press.

Gretchen Carlson


Acceptance Remarks

Thank you so much, first to this organization for honoring me tonight. To Senator Gillibrand, for your time and your commitment, thank you so much. It’s an honor to be here tonight in such great company and especially on this so important day as we are honoring International Women’s Day.

For more than 25 years I’ve had the privilege of covering the biggest stories all across the nation but besides being a journalist, I’m also a mom, a musician, an author, a philanthropist, a former Miss America, a sports junkie, and an advocate for women. Since my complaint against my former boss went public 20 months ago I’ve added a few other duties to the list. Tonight I’m standing before you as a survivor of sexual harassment in the workplace and sexual assault.

I didn’t intend to set off a national movement when I jumped off the cliff all by myself. Back then there was no Me Too hashtag, no Time’s Up movement. Just one woman- me – trying to hold one man accountable. But since that excruciating choice – the biggest decision of my life – I’ve discovered that courage is contagious. When one woman speaks up, others feel empowered to follow. It’s like a chain of inspiration. And because so many brave women have not spoken out, we are at a national tipping point. We are witnessing a cultural revolution of real change. But this moment would never have come about without you. Your reporting has been critically important in this movement. The titanic changes that are underway in our country. And on behalf of all harassment survivors, I want to say to you thank you!

I’ve discovered that courage is contagious. When one woman speaks up, others feel empowered to follow. It’s like a chain of inspiration.

The past 20 months had been about empowering women to come forward and telling their stories, but now the real work begins, because now we have to make the real changes happen. As Senator Gillibrand said, I’ve spent the last year walking the hallways to meet with members of Congress and in December I … joined the Senator and others to introduce the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Harassment Act, which restores victims’ Seventh Amendment rights. And here’s the key to it: it was bipartisan! Imagine that! In the House and the Senate on the same day. I cannot overemphasize the need for this legislation. Today more than 60 million Americans have forced arbitration clauses in their employment contracts. That number has doubled since the year 2000. It turns out that forced arbitration is the harasser’s best friend. It keeps complaints and settlements secret. It allows harassers to stay in their jobs even as victims are pushed out and fired.

Your reporting has been critically important in this movement.

I know Senator Gillibrand and her colleagues are working incredibly hard to get this bill passed and then it will go to the president’s desk. And I’m proud to support their efforts because here’s what I’ve learned – and I know: sexual harassment is apolitical. We’ve watched titans from both sides fall. Women from all walks of life and politics are subject to this abuse, and that’s why we should all care.

Women from all walks of life and politics are subject to this abuse, and that’s why we should all care.

On July 6, 2016. I was mostly known as Gretchen Carlson, journalist, but today I’m proud to have added advocate to my resume. I’m proud to have started the Gift of Courage Fund to empower women and girls – and boys. Proud to have started the Gretchen Carlson Leadership Initiative to help underprivileged women get the help they need with sexual harassment and domestic violence for free. Proud to have recently worked with the iconic Norman Lear as a reporter and EP for the upcoming season of America Divided. Proud to have recently taken on the huge volunteer job of Executive Chairwoman of the Miss America Organization, bringing my Be Fierce movement to almost 100 years of tradition (stay tuned for changes!) but I’m most proud of the role that I have played in my life as a mom and as a role model for my two preteen children. They were my utmost concern and I was so worried about their wellbeing. But I underestimated my own kids because it turns out they’d been given the gift of courage, too.

Thank you for this important recognition and for your commitment to reporting the stories of millions of American women who never had their voices heard! Because we will not be underestimated, intimidated or set back. We will not be silenced by the ways of the past or the establishment. No, we will stand up together, and we will use our voices, and we will show our courage. We will take back our power and above all we will always Be Fierce. Thank you.

We will stand up together, and we will use our voices, and we will show our courage. We will take back our power and above all we will always Be Fierce.


Gretchen Carlson is one of the nation’s most successful and recognized news anchors and a tireless advocate for workplace equality and the empowerment of women. She most recently hosted The Real Story on Fox News for three years, and prior to that co-hosted the #1 rated cable morning news show, Fox and Friends, for more than seven years. She reported and produced a 30-part series on domestic violence that won several national awards. In 2015, Carlson’s first book, Getting Real, became a national best-seller. Her latest book, Be Fierce, debuted in 2017 as New York Times bestseller, and she was recently named Executive Chairwoman of the Miss America Organization where she serves in a volunteer capacity.

First Amendment Leadership Award 2018

Updated on 2019-01-11T17:14:51+00:00, by firstawards.