Roger Ailes, who runs Fox News, is set to be fired by Rupert Murdoch, owner of the network, over charges that he sexually harassed TV journalist Gretchen Carlson. Megyn Kelly has also said that Ailes harassed her, though other Fox News employees are defending their boss. In fact, three of the network’s biggest stars–Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, and Greta Van Susteren–are threatening to quit if Ailes leaves. This would mean, for better or worse, the end of Fox News as we know it.
Roger Ailes is heading for the exit at Fox News Channel, the cable network beloved by American conservatives, with Rupert Murdoch and his sons in agreement that he should leave amid allegations of sexual harassment.
The timing and terms of the departure of the man who turned Fox News into a media and political powerhouse were unclear on Tuesday evening. Mr Murdoch, executive chairman of 21st Century Fox, the channel’s parent company, and Lachlan, his older son and co-chairman, would prefer to wait until after this week’s Republican convention, two people briefed on the matter told the Financial Times.James Murdoch, Mr Murdoch’s younger son and chief executive, was pushing for Mr Ailes to go as soon as possible, those people said.
Late on Tuesday, the Drudge Report website said Mr Ailes had left Fox News with a $40m severance package. 21st Century Fox denied the report in a tweeted statement, saying: “Roger is at work. The review is ongoing. The only agreement that is in place is his existing employment agreement.”
In 2012, the last year for which Mr Ailes’ pay was disclosed in the company’s proxy filing, he earned a total of $21m, including a $5m salary.
The likely departure of the former aide to Richard Nixon who defied the odds when he launched Fox News 20 years ago could present a big problem for the Murdochs. Three of Fox News’ biggest stars — Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and Greta Van Susteren — have clauses in their contracts that would allow them to depart if Mr Ailes were to leave the network, the two people briefed on the dispute said.
This means a core team of on-air talent could follow Mr Ailes out the door.
Mr O’Reilly said in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter last year that he had “no idea how the network would shake out if he [Roger Ailes] wasn’t here.”
Mr Ailes has told associates he is furious at his treatment by the Murdochs. 21st Century Fox opened an internal investigation into him on July 6, after Gretchen Carlson, a former news anchor, filed a lawsuit alleging that he fired her after 11 years for refusing to have a sexual relationship with him.
Mr Ailes has denied Ms Carlson’s claims and pushed to move the case into confidential arbitration.