Update, 6:50 p.m.: OK, it looks like Ailes is still headed for the door, but the brief saga of Ailes’ ouster at Fox took a new turn Tuesday evening with reports from Drudge Report that the network’s other top talent isn’t happy with the move. Drudge reports that network stars Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, and Greta Van Susteren, along with the hosts of Fox & Friends and The Five are scheduled to meet to discuss the possibility of a walkout in support of Ailes.
Original Post: What the hell is going on with Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes? For days, reports have proliferated that Ailes’ boss, 21st Century Fox honcho Rupert Murdoch, and Murdoch’s sons were preparing to oust the Fox News chief in the wake of a sexual harassment lawsuit filed earlier this month by former Fox host Gretchen Carlson.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Drudge Report broke the news that Ailes would be out by Friday with a buyout package worth tens of millions. NPR reported the same, citing two anonymous sources. Fox News confirmed Ailes’ exit to the Daily Beast but then walked it back. Then Drudge deleted an initial tweet, which appeared to show the terms of departure, and tamped down its home page’s headline to the vague, “AILES FOX NEWS DRAMA.” Deadline reports he is out. CNN’s Brian Stelter said exit talks were underway.
“Roger is at work,” the network said in a statement to several reporters. “The review is ongoing. And the only agreement that is in place is his existing employment agreement.”
Ailes has been one of the most powerful and influential figures in American media since he established the cable news network in 1996, and his departure would signal the end of an era in television and politics. Fox News is the nation’s most-watched cable news network and has tremendous influence among American conservatives in particular.
Carlson’s lawsuit, filed in New Jersey state court last week, alleges that, “Ailes has unlawfully retaliated against Carlson and sabotaged her career because she refused his sexual advances and complained about severe and pervasive sexual harassment.” Carlson had been a host of The Real Story With Gretchen Carlson until June.*
In the days after the suit was made public, Carlson’s attorney announced that more than a dozen women had come forward with similar stories about Ailes. Six spoke publicly to New York’s Gabriel Sherman, portraying the Fox News chief as “a boss who spoke openly of expecting women to perform sexual favors in exchange for job opportunities.” On Tuesday, Sherman reported that Fox star Megyn Kelly had relayed her own account of harassment by Ailes to lawyers investigating on behalf of 21st Century Fox, the network’s parent company.
One way or another, it does seem like Ailes’ exit is in progress. We’ll update this post when we know more.
*Correction, July 19, 2016: This article originally misstated that Gretchen Carlson had been the host of Fox & Friends until June. Her last job at Fox News was as the host of The Real Story With Gretchen Carlson.