Amid growing allegations of sexual harassment and a pending lawsuit filed by former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson, TV executive Roger Ailes has resigned from his position as Fox News chairman and CEO, effective immediately.
Temporarily succeeding him is 85-year-old News Corporation CEO and 21st Century Fox executive chairman Rupert Murdoch, who now becomes acting chairman and chief executive of Fox News and Fox Business Network until a permanent replacement is secured.
In a statement, Murdoch said Ailes “has made a remarkable contribution to our company and our country,” and that Ailes shared Murdoch’s “vision of a great and independent television organization and executed it brilliantly.”
The New York Daily News today reported that Ailes would receive $60 million as part of a separation agreement and would also remain on board in a consultant role. New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman on July 19 reported, however, that 21st Century Fox had allegedly given Ailes until August 1 to voluntarily step down or face termination.
Ailes, 76, in July was the subject of a widely-reported sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed by Carlson. The longtime Fox News commentator and former “Fox & Friends” and “The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson” host claimed she had experienced “severe and pervasive sexual harassment” during her decade-long tenure at Fox, and that Ailes had exhibited “harassing, discriminatory and retaliatory treatment” toward her. The complaint also alleged that Ailes made inappropriate comments and unwanted sexual advances toward Carlson before ultimately terminating the host without notice on June 23.
Carlson is seeking compensatory and punitive damages. She’s being represented by Montclair, NJ-based litigator Nancy Erika Smith and New York co-counsel Martin Hyman. New York-based professional services agency Ripp Media handles public relations duties for the Carlson suit. Ripp Media principal Allan Ripp on July 7 detailed his agency’s media strategy surrounding the suit with O’Dwyer’s.
Ailes has denied the allegations, referring to them in a statement as “false” and “offensive.” However, a report published several days later by New York magazine’s Sherman detailed statements from six other women who said they were also sexually harassed by Ailes. During a Fox News internal review of the matter, media outlets reported that Fox host Megyn Kelly also allegedly told personnel that she too had been the subject of sexual advances made by Ailes a a decade earlier.
Ailes, a Republican political operative who was the driving force behind the launch of Fox News Channel, had served as CEO since that network’s founding twenty years ago. He was formerly a media consultant for Rudy Giuliani’s mayoral campaign, and also worked with Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. Fox News Channel, which Ailes founded with Murdoch in 1996, is now the highest-rated cable network in the U.S.
The Drudge Report today circulated Ailes’ resignation letter to Murdoch, which read, in part, “Having spent 20 years building this historic business, I will not allow my presence to become a distraction from the work that must be done every day to ensure that Fox News and Fox Business continue to lead our industry. I am confident that everyone at Fox News and Fox Business will continue as the standard setters that they are, and that the businesses are well positioned for even greater success in the future.” No mention of the allegations was made in the correspondence.
The Drudge Report had also previously published photos of Ailes’ financial separation agreement, but the conservative site later deleted those documents.
Reactions to Ailes’ departure has reverberated far and wide. Progressive media watchdog Media Matters released a statement from founder David Brock that read, “Media Matters has successfully branded Fox News as a network not to be trusted. We combat their on-air falsehoods, sexism, and misogyny daily. While Roger Ailes ultimately went down as a result of his heinous behavior, twelve years of Media Matters calling out his network for outrageous right-wing propaganda and ensuring that millions of people were aware of it in real-time certainly didn’t hurt.”
Online women’s advocacy organization UltraViolet issued a media statement that read, “While we are glad to see Roger Ailes step down from his position at Fox News, sending him off with zero accountability and a big check is a slap in the face to the dozens of women he harassed during his tenure as CEO and does nothing to fundamentally change the culture of Fox News that he created.”
Carlson reacted to the news on Twitter by thanking those who have supported her during the ordeal.