On CBS, NPR's David Folkenflik Highlights Report That Roger Ailes May Be On His Way Out At Fox News

From the July 19 edition of CBS' CBS This Morning:

Video file

NORAH O'DONNELL (CO-HOST): New York magazine reports Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes may be on his way out. Sources tell the magazine the leaders of Fox News' parent company, Rupert Murdoch and his sons, believe Ailes needs to go after reviewing early results of an internal sexual harassment investigation that follows former anchor Gretchen Carlson's lawsuit against Ailes. CBS News has not confirmed the report. Parent company 21st Century Fox tells us, quote, “This matter is not yet resolved and the review is not concluded.”  We've reached out to Ailes' attorney for comment. NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik covers Murdoch and other issues. David, good morning.


O'DONNELL: So what are you reporting? What do you know? Is it true that the Murdochs have decided to remove Ailes?

FOLKENFLIK: You know, what I can say is that it seems to me that the tectonic plates are really shifting over at 21st Century Fox, and they haven't quite come to rest where they're going to end up. I think the Murdoch sons, for different reasons, Lachlan and James, who have been given a lot more control and influence at the company in recent years, both for different reasons want Ailes to go. And at the same time, Ailes has earned a lot of loyalty and a lot of respect at Fox News for generating so much money there and for standing by Rupert Murdoch, the patriarch of the family for so long.

CHARLIE ROSE (CO-HOST): And so, therefore, where does Rupert stand?

FOLKENFLIK: I think this would be a reluctant decision on his part, if and when he finally gets there, but events may compel him to do so and his sons may compel him to do so. 

GAYLE KING (CO-HOST): Well, Gretchen Carlson opened the door and other women are walking through, some of them from years ago. What does that say to you? What do you believe?

FOLKENFLIK: I think you're seeing, at a moment, and I've talked to four women who are making in different ways these kinds of allegations. They’ve seen an opening to make allegations and accusations that might not have been listened to in times past, because somebody so prominent as Gretchen Carlson has done this and because she's done it in the context of a court case. And so it's sort of become a topic that one is allowed to explore. 

ROSE: What's interesting about this to me is that Fox hired an outside law firm, a prestigious New York law firm to do the investigation.

FOLKENFLIK: Yeah, and I've spoken to a number of people who have worked very closely as top executives for Rupert Murdoch and who have advised him over the years. And they said, look, if this were times passed, if the sons were not helping to run the company, this would have been handled, the interviews would have been done probably by somebody internally, and it would have been put in a file somewhere and never heard from again. We've got to remember, back about a dozen years ago, Bill O'Reilly was sued for sexual harassment. Fox had to make a seven figure payment to make that go away. The entire company, or division of Fox News had to go through intense, day-long sexual harassment training. But they were willing to do that for their biggest star. I think that's been historically the template under Rupert. I think now it's a different day and a different moment. 

KING: Megyn Kelly's a big star and she's not speaking up. Does that say anything to you? 

FOLKENFLIK: Well, you know, look, I don't think every male anchor is looked at and asked to say where do you stand on this. And I think yet, people don't know entirely where this is going to end up. This has been a rolling story and a moving target. And I think that Megyn Kelly, who has been in the midst of, in a sense a publicity tour for her own prospects both at Fox and at other networks, has not wanted to get in the middle of this melee. She's kept her powder dry. 

ROSE: But this is a sign of the rise of the two sons who are increasingly running the company? 

FOLKENFLIK: I think that's right. If you look at James Murdoch, he very much wants 21st Century Fox to be a 21st century company. And while he admires the record and the role that Roger Ailes played in really creating Fox News and the profits that it’s generated, he doesn't see Roger Ailes in his mid- to late-70s as presenting a forward-looking, 21st century face for what his company will ultimately represent. And he also ideologically is not in the same place. Similarly, Lachlan Murdoch, the older son, they had incredible infighting with Roger Ailes and they've kept these grudges for many years.


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