Fox News has reportedly paid a former PR executive at the company “approximately $8 million in hush money” after firing him this summer.
Brian Lewis, a former executive vice president at Fox News, was fired in July amid reports that he had been giving information about the company to Gabriel Sherman, a New York magazine contributing editor working on a (likely unflattering) biography of Fox News chief Roger Ailes.
Citing an unnamed network executive “with knowledge of the negotiations,” Gawker reports today that Lewis was paid roughly $8 million by the network as part of a settlement.
As Gawker lays out, when Lewis was abruptly fired, Fox cited “vague 'financial irregularities” as the reason for the move, prompting Lewis' lawyer to attack the network for “telling lies.” In an August statement to Gawker, Lewis' lawyer essentially threatened that his client might reveal harmful information about Ailes and the network.
According to the anonymous Fox executive quoted by Gawker -- who suggested that the settlement number would have been much higher if Lewis had significantly damaging information about Ailes -- the claims of “financial impropriety” leading to Lewis' firing were “complete bullshit.”
As suspected, the network was reportedly livid about Sherman's forthcoming book, The Loudest Voice in the Room: How Roger Ailes and Fox News Remade American Politics, which has driven a wedge in the network's public relation's team.
“That whole financial impropriety thing was complete bullshit,” explained the executive, corroborating the accounts of several other Fox sources. "Everything was about Gabe Sherman." Sherman, the New York magazine writer, is scheduled to publish his long-anticipated (and unauthorized) biography of Roger Ailes in January; Ailes designated Lewis as Sherman's point of contact at the network.
The executive further explained that, up until the day of Lewis's dismissal, the channel's public relations division, which Lewis oversaw, had suffered from heated internal disagreements about how to properly handle Sherman's book.
The turmoil, which the executive compared to the conservative movement's internecine struggle between the insurgent Tea Party and establishment Republicans, eventually split the press shop into two equally distinct camps. The first camp maintained that total radio silence was the best policy; the second, led by Lewis, argued that the network should try to engage Sherman.
In addition to claiming Lewis' firing was the result of some vague financial violation, Fox also quickly circled the wagons around Ailes after Sherman published a New York magazine piece explaining that Lewis had perhaps been Ailes' closest confidante at the network, arguing that his firing was especially important because he had acted as “a moderating influence on Ailes. Lewis was one of the few senior executives who would vocally challenge Ailes (although he was smart enough to do it privately).”
In the span of two hours and fifteen minutes the day after Sherman posted his report, at least eight Fox News personalities -- including prime time stars like Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity -- posted tweets defending Ailes and attacking Sherman's reporting. Fox employees sought to downplay Lewis' prominence at the network, despite his widely reported former role as a top Ailes adviser and job description as the employee who oversaw “all corporate communications and public relations functions for the television and online divisions of FOX News and FOX Business, as well as the FOX Television Stations, Twentieth Television and MyNetworkTV.”
Fox News has been heavily invested in attacking Sherman for well over a year in an apparent attempt to discredit his book ahead of its publication in January.
Image via DCU School Of Communications