More women come forward to accuse the president of Fox News of sexual harassment, but Rupert Murdoch has proved himself unwilling in the past to let his executives go down without a fight.
If there is something good to say Rupert Murdoch, the tabloid media king, it is that he is loyal. So loyal that he would back his UK executive Rebekah Brooks all through the phone hacking scandal, even hiring her back to be CEO of News Corp UK.
But US media observers smell blood and think the end may be near for Roger Ailes, president of Fox News. Accused of sexual harassment by former cable channel anchor Gretchen Carlson, and backed by other women who have come forward with stories of harassment, it may look like Ailes might be forced into retirement.
Not so fast. News Corp may have moved slowly, but it is now circling the wagons in an attempt to save Ailes. Fox TV personalities such as Sean Hannity and Maria Bartiromo have expresses support for Ailes, denying claims that he has problems with women employees.
As for the media mogul himself, he has been lying low somewhat in recent months. Having received a bit heat for some tweets regarding the Donald Trump campaign he has stayed off the social network for months now (and then met with Trump in Scotland in an apparent move to patch things up). But it is unlikely that he will allow Ailes to exit unceremoniously – at least not unless he actually wants it to happen.
FoxNews reached out to PoliMedia, forwarding a response from Roger Ailes’ attorneys, Barry Asen Epstein Becker Green:
“It has become obvious that Ms. Carlson and her lawyer are desperately attempting to litigate this in the press because they have no legal case to argue. The latest allegations, all 30 to 50 years old, are false,” the statement read.
Since Gretchen Carlson, former Fox News host, filed an explosive sexual-harassment lawsuit against company founder, chairman, and CEO Roger Ailes, other women have come forward. New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman detailed six women’s alleged encounters that they claim took place from the 1960s to 1989. Two allowed their full names to be used.
Kellie Boyle is one of these women. The co-founder of a Virginia-based communications firm that she runs with her husband, Boyle said she met Ailes in 1989 as a young, up-and-coming Republican political communications consultant. A legendary media consultant, Ailes had done work for republican presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. She was in awe of him. “He was powerful and brilliant,” said Boyle. “I had read his book, You Are the Message, and I quoted it often when I was training candidates.”
But in an interview with Fortune, she said that the few hours she spent with Roger Ailes—which included a sexual proposition, rebuffed, followed by loss of a big contract—was deeply scarring, and left her adrift emotionally and professionally. “I was really lost for a few years,” Boyle said. “I had my career taken away from me.”
In interviews with New York Magazine, the six women—two of whom spoke on the record—detail their individual experiences with Ailes, claiming he made unwanted sexual advances toward them during instances ranging from the 1960s to 1989.
Kellie Boyle, a former Republican National Committee field advisor and one of the women who has come forward with allegations, said that during a job interview in 1989, Ailes refused to hire her after she refused his sexual advances.
“He said, ‘You know, if you want to play with the big boys, you have to lay with the big boys,’” Boyle told New York. “He said, ‘That’s the way it works,’ and he started naming other women he’s had. He said that’s how all these men in media and politics work—everyone’s got their friend.”
Fox News host Greta Van Susteren has been with the network for 15 years and says she has “absolutely never” seen chairman and CEO Roger Ailes act inappropriately toward women, as is alleged in a sexual harassment suit filed this week.
“I’ve even been alone in his office, having lunch together … Absolutely not,” the “On the Record” host told TheWrap when asked if she ever experienced what former “Real Story” host Gretchen Carlson claimed in court papers submitted on Wednesday.
Calling Carlson “a very unhappy employee that lost her job,” Van Susteren is the second female Fox News host to approach TheWrap with a defense of Ailes since the lawsuit was filed. “Justice” host Jeanine Pirro called the suit “absurd” and “ridiculous” in an exclusive interview Thursday night.
If the sons find the embarrassments of the ongoing litigation with Carlson too much to bear (and it’s just possible that the courts will order the matter into a private arbitration, as Ailes’ lawyers are asking them to do), there would seem to be a lot less personal connection to Ailes staying their hand than there is with their father.
On the other hand: As the list of Fox talent coming forward to defend Ailes grows — Sean Hannity, Maria Bartiromo, Kimberly Guilfoyle, Judge Pirro, Greta Van Susteren, Brit Hume, former anchor Kiran Chetry — it must simultaneously occur to the Murdochs that many who make Fox News what it is feel they owe their careers and their livelihoods to Ailes, and may not stand for his removal.
Baltimore Sun critic David Zurawik, speaking on Brian Stelter’s Sunday-morning talk show “Reliable Sources” on CNN, painted the problem in stark terms:
“This is his channel. It’s built on his ego, and when you ask about stepping aside, they can’t let him step aside unless he’s going to run it like a manager who’s ejected from the game and runs it out of the club house. They will fall apart if he’s not in the lead. … Everyone I have ever talked to over there has almost a personal Roger Ailes story, and they’re personally loyal to him. Everything about it, the culture of that network, seems to me to be his personality. It’s a great triumph that he gave this little startup the swagger and this arrogance to become what it is.”