Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes stepped down from his position on Thursday, roughly two weeks after former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson filed a lawsuit alleging sexual harassment. Ailes was also the Chairman of Fox Television Stations, a position he also resigned from.
Rupert Murdoch, who brought on Ailes to start Fox News, is taking over as interim CEO and Chairman of Fox News and Fox Business Network in the wake of the resignation.
While the move is being called a resignation by Ailes, Ailes was effectively forced out by Murdoch and his sons following an internal investigation into the sexual harassment allegations. Ailes signed a multi-year contract in June of 2015.
Gabriel Sherman of New York Magazine, who previously wrote an unauthorized biography about Ailes, reported earlier this week that the Murdochs had decided to remove Ailes and negotiations began. Rupert Murdoch returned to New York from vacation in order to take part in the negotiations. Negotiations hit a standstill when discussing what would be said about why Ailes was leaving as Ailes wanted to avoid language that could work against him in the legal matters.
In a statement, Rupert Murdoch said, “Roger Ailes has made a remarkable contribution to our company and our country.”
“I am personally committed to ensuring that Fox News remains a distinctive, powerful voice. Our nation needs a robust Fox News to resonate from every corner of the country.”
“To ensure continuity of all that is best about Fox News and what it stands for, I will take over as Chairman and acting CEO, with the support of our existing management team under Bill Shine, Jay Wallace and Mark Kranz.”
Rupert’s sons, Lachlan and James Murdoch, said in a joint statement, “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. We take seriously our responsibility to uphold these traditional, long-standing values of our company.”
The Drudge Report published an exclusive letter from Roger Ailes to Rupert Murdoch. One sentence gained particular attention in light of the harassment and retaliation allegations, “I take particular pride in the role that I have played advancing the careers of the many women I have promoted to executive and on-air positions.”
Also noteworthy is that the Ailes letter was edited after its publication. The current version of the sentence reads, “I am proud of our accomplishments and look forward to continuing to work with you as an adviser in building 21st Century Fox.” The sentence originally used “consultant” rather than “adviser.” There were reports that Ailes was staying on as a consultant, but rather he will be acting as an adviser to Rupert during the transition.
The question is what impact Ailes’s leaving has on the short and long-term. Several Fox News personalities have clauses in their contracts that allow them to leave the network if Ailes leave. The Murdochs are reportedly looking at cleaning house, especially removing executives strongly tied to Ailes.