The lawyer for Roger Ailes says that the founding and current Fox News CEO denies sexually harassing Megyn Kelly, the anchor of the top-rated Kelly File.
There are also reports of a supposed Fox News mutiny if Ailes, 76, is forced to walk the plank, as it were.
Unlike female Fox personalities such as Harris Faulkner, Kimberly Guilfoyle, Maria Bartiromo, Jeanine Pirro, and others who publicly vouched for Ailes’ professionalism, Megyn Kelly has been conspicuously silent about her boss.
According to a report in New York magazine about the ongoing internal investigation at the network, Kelly revealed to investigators that Ailes allegedly made unwanted sexual advances toward her when she was just starting her career at FNC.
As a newcomer to the industry at the time, it may well be that she was reluctant to make it an issue, although there has yet been an official confirmation of the charge. That being said, with her current media stardom, Megyn Kelly now has a lot more leverage to be forthright.
The rumor mill has been in overdrive in the last few days with claims that Ailes was on the way out under pressure from Rupert Murdoch and his two sons, who run parent company 21st Century Fox.
In a brief statement, 21st Century Fox explained that “Roger is at work. The review is ongoing. And the only agreement that is in place is his existing employment agreement.”
About the New York magazine journalist who initially reported that Ailes was on the way out, Joe Concha of the Hill opined that he has “a dubious record of exclusive reports that were outright wrong or questionable at best.”
Gretchen Carlson prompted the ongoing controversy when she sued Roger Ailes on July 6 for sexual harassment after her contract went unrenewed. In a statement, Ailes responded that Carlson was let go for low ratings, and the misbehavior allegations are false.
Two other women have gone on the record with allegations against Ailes, but the incidents date back to 1989 and the late 1960s. Several other so-far unidentified women have reportedly claimed to be sexually harassed by Ailes, Politico noted.
Without further detail, the Drudge Report claimed that Megyn Kelly’s sexual harassment allegations is because she didn’t like the way Ailes hugged her ten years ago.
Matt Drudge also posted and then deleted a purported settlement agreement between Fox News and Roger Ailes. “If the settlement agreement between Mr. Ailes and 21st Century Fox that leaked on Drudge on Tuesday is finalized, Mr. Ailes could step down from the Fox chairmanship the next day,” the New York Times asserted.
Ailes’ lawyer, private practice attorney and law professor Susan Estrich (who happens to be a prominent Democrat who managed the presidential campaign of Mike Dukakis) told the Hollywood Reporter that no exit strategy or separation agreement, if there is one, has been finalized and that her client denies the Megyn Kelly allegations.
“I think everybody was surprised because Roger has spent the last 10 years helping Megyn Kelly become the star that she is…He simply says he never sexually harassed Megyn Kelly and that they had enormous amounts of encounters over the years in which he consistently helped her become a stronger and more popular, more successful television anchor. You look at what she said about him in her book and every place else. She’s repeatedly said how terrific he’s been as a mentor.”
Estrich also said that Ailes could continue his involvement with Fox News after 20 years at the helm in a possible consultant role should he step down as CEO.
In an essay published last night, FNC MediaBuzz host Howard Kurtz indicated that “I can confirm that such [departure] discussions are under way.”
If Roger Ailes goes, several high-profile Fox News stars could follow him out the door, Breitbart News professed, according to an unidentified network insider.
“‘Everyone here hates Gretchen and Megyn,’ the talent said in a brief phone interview, adding that hosts from Fox and Friends and throughout the primetime lineup from the co-hosts of The Five to Special Report‘s Bret Baier to Greta Van Susteren to Bill O’Reilly, Shepard Smith and Sean Hannity are planning to band together and potentially execute contract clauses that allow them to leave if Ailes is driven out.”
Some Megyn Kelly non-fans have argued that when she essentially accused Donald Trump of misogyny during the first GOP debate in August, 2015 (which set an all-time viewership record), that line of questioning was less about journalism and more about careerism, and she was actually trying to burnish her credentials for a possible gig at ABC, CBS, or NBC once her current contract runs out next year. Her detractors may or may not perceive the same motive in the current scenario.
While it’s all speculation at this point, and no one on the outside knows what happened behind closed doors, helping to bring down Roger Ailes — if that’s what results — would presumably be a resume enhancer for Kelly in competing network precincts.
“This talent added that there is a lot expected to come out about how much Kelly’s colleagues despise her. ‘The entire building hates her,’ the source said. ‘Nobody cares that she’s upset about a frickin’ hug.'” the Breitbart story claimed.
Earning about $15 million a year, Megyn Kelly has credited Roger Ailes for elevating her to TV megastar status, even remarking following her high-visibility feud with Donald Trump that Ailes is responsible for her popularity and giving her a “powerful platform” at 9 p.m. Eastern time Monday through Friday. Ailes hired Megyn Kelly from a Washington, D.C., TV station and also strongly backed her during the long-running feud with the GOP presidential nominee, whose candidacy was officially confirmed last night at the GOP convention in Cleveland.
In April, Megyn Kelly told Variety that “I really like working for Roger Ailes.”
With the addition of the alleged Megyn Kelly sexual harassment component, the Roger Ailes situation at Fox News is fast-moving, so stay tuned.
[Photo by Chris Carlson/AP Images]