Roger Ailes, the founder and chief executive of Fox News, has resigned from his position under fire, but will remain with the company until 2018 as a consultant, Fox News’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, announced Thursday.
Ailes will be replaced temporarily by Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of 21st Century Fox, the company said.
Ailes’s job has been in question for the past week or so, amid a budding sexual harrassment scandal. The powerful executive was accused of harrassment in a lawsuit filed two weeks ago by former network host Gretchen Carlson, who said Ailes pressured her for a sexual relationship in exchange for keeping her position as a host of a Fox News program.
Since then, other women have come forward with allegations against Ailes, 76, some stretching as far back at the mid-1960s. Ailes has repeatedly denied the allegations.
21st Century Fox did not disclose terms of Ailes’s severance agreement.
In a statement, Murdoch said: “Roger Ailes has made a remarkable contribution to our company and our country. Roger shared my vision of a great and independent television organization and executed it brilliantly over 20 great years. Fox News has given voice to those who were ignored by the traditional networks and has been one of the great commercial success stories of modern media.”
Murdoch’s statement made no mention of the recent allegations against Ailes.
While Murdoch, 85, reportedly sided with Ailes, Murdoch’s sons – Lachlan and James – were long at odds with him, and saw the sexual harrassment allegations as a pretext to remove him. Lachlan, 44, is 21st Century’s executive chairman and James is its chief executive.
In a joint statement, Lachlan and James Murdoch, said: “We join our father in recognizing Roger’s remarkable contributions to our company. Our talented Fox News and Fox Business colleagues, up and down the organization and on both sides of the camera, have built something that continues to redefine the cable news experience for millions of viewers. We are enormously proud of their accomplishments. For them, as well as for our colleagues across our entire organization, we continue our commitment to maintaining a work environment based on trust and respect.”
Ailes was named founding CEO of Fox News in 1996 and, with a company reorganization in 2005, took on the role of chairman.
He is credited with driving the top ratings of the network, which re-created television news by catering to, and developing, a vast conservative audience. Fox has become the highest rated cable network, and reportedly has profits of well over $1 billion.
Prior to his time at Fox News, Ailes was a media consultant for Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and for Rudy Giuliani in his first campaign for New York mayor.
Ailes’ fall was highly public, played out in the news media that Ailes – and Fox – had sought to be an alternative. Given that Ailes was a few months from the end of his current contract, the Murdochs could have let him slide into retirement, rather than make an issues of the allegations that Carlson raised.
Instead, in an echo of the phone-hacking scandal that beset the Murdoch’s media and entertainment empire in 2012, the publicity surrounding the allegations apparently built pressure on the family to act.
The law firm Paul, Weiss was in the middle of conducting an internal review of complaints of sexual harrassment by Ailes and an alleged culture of sexism within the company when the younger Murdochs began to press for Ailes’ removal last week. There was mention of the investigation’s findings – or even its existence – in 21st Century Fox’s announcement of Ailes’ departure.
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Margaret Sullivan contributed to this report.
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Video: Roger Ailes, the man who made Fox News, is out
Fox News chairman and chief executive Roger Ailes is in negotiations about exiting the popular news network amid a sexual harassment suit brought forward by former host Gretchen Carlson. (Erin Patrick O’Connor / The Washington Post)
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