After serving 20 years as Chairman and CEO of Fox News, Roger Ailes has been ousted from the network following reports of alleged sexual harassment.
According to a recent report by New York magazine, the former CEO created an office culture “rife with grotesque abuses of power” that only came to light following former Fox and Friends anchor Gretchen Carlson’s sexual harassment suit against Ailes in July 2016.
In her civil complaint, Carlson states that she faced harassment from the Fox News Network as early as 2009, when co-host Steve Doocy on Fox and Friends allegedly treated her in a repeatedly “sexist and condescending way.”
Ailes’ response to Carlson’s complaints was reportedly to tell the anchor she was a “man-hater” that needed to learn to “get along with the boys.” Following her continued complaints, Carlson alleges that Ailes began to retaliate against her: saying Ailes restricted her onscreen appearances and airtime despite soaring ratings and views with the network.
Beginning in 2014, New York magazine reports Carlson took matters into her own hands, and recorded meetings with Ailes on her iPhone over the course of the next year. Documented recordings of his sexual harassment against Carlson include one instance he says to her, “I think you and I should have had a sexual relationship a long time ago, and then you’d be good and better and I’d be good and better,” adding that “some problems are easier to solve" that way.
Following the termination of her contract with Fox in June 2015, Carlson took Ailes to court for “severe and pervasive sexual harassment,” as outlined in her civil complaint.
In the weeks that followed, Carlson’s lawsuit opened a window of opportunity for fellow women of Fox News to speak out about harassment they experienced within the network. By July 2016, half a dozen women came forward to New York magazine to discuss their experience with sexual harassment within Fox News, including Meghan Kelly, a prominent anchor.
The building controversy surrounding Ailes prompted Rupert Murdoch, the Executive Chairman of Fox, to conduct an internal investigation into the Fox News Network and reconsider Ailes’ future with Fox. Later that same month, New York magazine reports Murdoch and Ailes agreed on a severance package for the former Fox News CEO that would include a payment of $40 million, the promise to retain Ailes as an ‘advisor’ to Fox News, and a multi-year noncompete clause that Ailes would never work with a rival network.
Murdoch has taken over operations of both the Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network in place of Ailes, but Fox News still faces many challenges ahead. “No one knows what to do,” one Fox host said. “No one knows who to report to. It’s just mayhem.”
The internal investigation of the Fox Network remains ongoing, and Murdoch continues to look for a permanent CEO to replace Ailes in the months leading up to the election.