Is the Roger Ailes-era at Fox News about to end?
On Monday, New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman cited two anonymous sources in reporting that the Murdoch family leadership at parent company 21st Century Fox has settled on ousting Ailes as CEO and chairman of the cable news network. That comes amid the company’s ongoing investigation into Gretchen Carlson’s sexual harassment allegations against Ailes.
Sherman reports that Fox CEO James Murdoch is leaning toward offering Ailes the option of either resigning or facing the possibility of being fired sometime this week. Rupert Murdoch and Lachlan Murdoch—James’ father and brother, respectively, and the executive co-chairmen of 21st Century Fox—are reportedly in favor of waiting to make a move until after this week’s Republican National Convention in Cleveland, a major news event, particularly for the conservative-leaning Fox News network.
Former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson filed a sexual harassment suit against Ailes earlier this month, and soon after, New York’s Sherman reported that six women came forward, two using their full names, claiming that Ailes had sexually harassed them too. Ailes denied all allegations.
Fox hired prominent corporate law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison to conduct an investigation, and the Monday report from Sherman cites anonymous sources who have been briefed on the law firm’s inquiry. In recent days, several top Fox News employees have come forward to defend their boss, and Sherman notes that the law firm is delving into the question of whether Ailes or other high-level managers applied inappropriate pressure. The firm is looking at an op-ed by Fox Business anchor Neil Cavuto, who told The New York Times on Monday that he “had no Machiavellian motive or sinister intention” when he penned a recent article slamming the accusations against Ailes. (Last week, The Washington Post published a critical article after Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly publicly supported Ailes, noting O’Reilly had himself once been accused of sexual harassment.)
21st Century Fox issued a statement saying, “This matter is not yet resolved and the review is not concluded.” Fortune reached out to Fox News for comment and will update this article with any response.
After Carlson filed her lawsuit against Ailes—a suit that, notably, does not name Fox News itself as a defendant—Fortune‘s Roger Parloff wrote about Carlson’s possible motivations in not naming the company in the suit, including the possibility that the former anchor hoped to drive a wedge between Ailes and the younger Murdoch executives at parent company 21st Century Fox. If that was, indeed, the motivation, then Monday’s report would seem to justify the decision.
Carlson’s lawsuit does not represent the first instance of sexual harassment allegations against Ailes. Sherman wrote an unauthorized biography of Ailes in 2014 that included some sexual harassment claims. On Monday, the women’s advocacy organization UltraViolet also announced the nearly 50,000 people have signed the group’s petition calling for Ailes’ removal as head of Fox News.