Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes, a towering figure in media and politics for the past half-century, is negotiating his exit from the cable network amidst a spiraling sexual harassment scandal, according to a source familiar with the situation.
Ailes, 76, has long been a kingmaker in Republican politics while running the top-rated news channel, which he launched with media mogul Rupert Murdoch nearly two decades ago. He was seen as untouchable, given his longstanding relationship with Murdoch and his continued business success: Fox News dominates the ratings and brings in more than $1 billion in revenue. And no one inside the network could seriously challenge his power.
But earlier this month, former “Fox & Friends” co-host Gretchen Carlson accused Ailes of sexually harassing her and firing her in retaliation for rebuffing his advances. Carlson’s lawsuit set in motion a chaotic couple of weeks at Fox News as six women from Ailes’ pre-Fox days came forward with similar accusations and others appeared willing to speak out.
Meanwhile, several Fox News stars ― including Bret Baier, Greta Van Susteren and Neil Cavuto ― have expressed support for Ailes.
On Monday, New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman reported that the elder Murdoch and his sons James and Lachlan, who lead Fox News parent 21st Century Fox, had agreed to remove Ailes, although the timing remained unclear.
Sherman reported on Tuesday that Megyn Kelly, one of the network’s biggest stars, had told the law firm investigating Carlson’s claims for 21st Century Fox that she, too, had been sexually harassed.
The Ailes ouster story took a confusing turn Tuesday afternoon when The Drudge Report first published an agreement indicating that Ailes would walk away with $40 million and then pulled the supposed agreement. The Daily Beast reported that Fox News initially confirmed Drudge’s report before walking back that confirmation.
But by Tuesday evening, even the New York Post ― which, like Ailes, ultimately reports to Murdoch ― was reporting that Ailes’ “end is near.”
Several Fox News personalities tried steering clear of the drama while in Cleveland for the Republican National Convention. Baier, who is working alongside Kelly during Fox News’ primetime coverage, and senior political analyst Brit Hume quickly walked away Tuesday when approached by a HuffPost reporter.
Fox News didn’t immediately return HuffPost’s requests for comment.
“Roger is at work,” a 21st Century Fox spokesman said in a statement. “The review is ongoing. And the only agreement that is in place is his existing employment agreement.”
The company statement, noticeably in the present tense, doesn’t rule out the possibility that Ailes could officially leave in the coming hours or days.
Andy Campbell and Ryan Grim contributed reporting.