New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman reported that the sexual harassment/retaliation lawsuit filed by former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson against Fox News CEO Roger Ailes could give 21st Century Fox executives, Lachlan and James Murdoch (sons of Rupert Murdoch) a way to oust Ailes.
Sherman quotes executives who believe 21st Century Fox’s hiring of outside counsel to investigate the allegations made against Ailes indicate “a coup” inside the network and that “this could be curtains for Ailes.” Sherman reports that “there are signs that the 76 year-old’s luck may have finally expired”:
[I]n the wake of Gretchen Carlson’s shocking sexual-harassment lawsuit against Ailes, there are signs that the 76 year-old’s luck may have finally expired.
On Wednesday, Fox’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, released a terse statement saying it took the allegations “seriously” and is conducting an “internal review of the matter.” The wording and timing of the press release — Ailes had yet to issue his own response, which, when it came, described the lawsuit as “retaliatory” (Carlson was just dropped from Fox) and claimed it would be “vigorously defended” — signal that Ailes’s standing with the Murdochs is precarious. According to one highly placed Fox source, Murdoch and his sons, Lachlan and James, approved the hiring of an outside lawyer to conduct the independent investigation. While it’s common for large companies to bring in outside counsel to conduct inquiries during public scandals, the move is a radical one for Murdoch. “Unprecedented,” one former senior executive told me. “It’s not Rupert’s style to investigate internal issues.”
Executives I spoke with over the past 24 hours said the hiring of an outside lawyer is also an indication that Murdoch’s sons may be capitalizing on the Carlson scandal to achieve a long-held goal: forcing Ailes out. “It’s a coup,” one person close to the company told me. If the investigation into Ailes’s management confirms Carlson’s account, or turns up additional episodes of harassment with other Fox women, it stands to reason the Murdoch children would have the leverage they need to push Ailes aside and install a less-right-wing chief. “This could be curtains for Ailes,” another person close to the company said. Indeed, several months after NBC hired an outside counsel in 1995 to investigate Ailes’s alleged anti-Semitic slur, he left NBC.