CNN: Findings From Investigation Into Sexual Harassment Allegations Against Ailes Were So Damaging "Ailes Had To Go"
Brian Stelter: “The Initial Findings Were Damaging Enough That The Murdochs Decided They Had To Escort Ailes Out”
Video ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF
From the July 21 edition of CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper:
Loading the player reg...
JAKE TAPPER (HOST): We're back with some breaking news, a media bombshell, and it’s not inappropriate that I'm sitting at the Republican National Convention as it happens, because it is of a lot of interest to a lot of conservatives. Roger Ailes, the chairman, CEO, and mastermind of Fox News Channel, is now officially out after allegations of sexual harassment surfaced. Joining me now, CNN senior media and politics reporter Dylan Byers plus CNN senior media correspondent Brian Stelter. Brian, first to you. Obviously, this is a huge deal, Gretchen Carlson first made the allegations, Fox News said that they were going to -- they assigned some investigators, lawyers, with the firm Paul, Weiss. Did that report come back and say horrible things?
BRIAN STELTER: The report initially informed the Murdochs, who own Fox, that Ailes had to go. We know that the investigators spoke with multiple women, we don't know exactly how many. But clearly the initial findings were damaging enough that the Murdochs decided they had to escort Ailes out. So, he is resigning immediately, he'll stay on help Rupert Murdoch if Rupert Murdoch needs the help, but for now Rupert Murdoch, the founder of 21st Century Fox, the biggest media mogul in the conservative media world, is going to run Fox himself. We're talking about a man, Ailes, who reshaped television news and Republican politics at the same time. Fox News is a virtual public square for conservatives, thanks to Ailes. And yet, now, he will no longer be running the show.
DYLAN BYERS: And I would just say, like you said, it’s quite ironic almost that it happened here. Because really the fact that Donald Trump could get the Republican nomination, the fact that he will accept that nomination tonight is something that could have only taken place in the climate that Roger Ailes, and Fox News created. Roger Ailes, for so much of the 20 years that he was at Fox News, spent so much time sort of stoking and sometimes leading the national debate over racial divide, culture wars, issues like that. And Donald Trump has really capitalized on that. So there’s an irony here to the fact that Donald Trump is accepting the Republican nomination at the very same time that Roger Ailes is stepping down at Fox.
TAPPER: After Gretchen Carlson, boy, I can't imagine being Gretchen Carlson today. She must have felt like David going against Goliath.
TAPPER: And she actually won. But, after she made her allegations, Fox News anchor, after anchor, after anchor came out and backed Roger Ailes: Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity --
STELTER: Greta Van Susteren.
TAPPER: Greta Van Susteren.
STELTER: And the list goes on.
TAPPER: And on and on.
STELTER: The only one not on that list is Megyn Kelly.
TAPPER: She did not say anything.
STELTER: Megyn Kelly [inaudible] has remained silent, and according to New York magazine and others, she actually spoke to the investigators.
TAPPER: Silent to the public, right.
BYERS: Yeah, and in fact we have been able to confirm she did speak to the investigators, she played ball with the investigators, and she mentioned details. And we have to see what exactly she said, but all evidence points to the fact that there were multiple women within Fox News who came forward to the investigators, and then that put the nail in Ailes' coffin.
STELTER: And yet, Ailes is continuing to vigorously deny these allegations. And I've heard from many sources at Fox, including some here in this arena, who don't believe it. Who don't believe it, they say "this is not the Roger Ailes I know." They believe this was a pretext for the Murdoch sons -- who are said not to like Ailes very much -- to push him out. They're of a younger generation, and they may want to change the Fox News brand over time. But, for now, Rupert, the father, is in charge, which means it will remain much of the same for now.
BYERS: But as concerns the Murdochs, and the business, you have to think whatever feelings the sons had about the [inaudible], and we do know that James wasn’t necessarily a huge fan of Roger Ailes, that is a business that brings in a billion dollars a year in free cash flow.
TAPPER: Yeah. They were fans of the money he brought in.
BYERS: They were fans of the money. So, they don't want instability. And speaking of instability, I will just say there are a lot of Fox News anchors, producers, talent here tonight, who are very uncertain about their own future and about the future of the business.
TAPPER: Some of them had contracts that were tied to Roger Ailes being the --
STELTER: Yeah, this is actually fascinating, it's called a "key man clause.” A “key man clause” means is that if the key man leaves, you can leave too. In this case, Roger Ailes, you can leave the network if he leaves. That means Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity, and others could leave theoretically right away if they wanted to.
TAPPER: They won't.
STELTER: Now, I’m told that's unlikely, there's a lot of reasons why they won't. Fox News is a powerhouse, it will remain a powerhouse, but now the question becomes what does Ailes do? He's in his mid-70s, he's had health problems, but he is a political mastermind as well as a television mastermind. Some have openly wondered if he would actually join the Trump campaign. I shouldn't laugh when I say that, even though it sounds amusing to me because we know the Trump campaign already has a campaign manager, already has staff, has spokespeople, but Roger Ailes conceivably could help Trump in a more open way than he has so far. We know they talk on the phone, but could he actually join the Trump campaign?
BYERS: And there is a theory, and it's a fair one, and the reason that Roger Ailes is going to stay on in an advisory role to Rupert Murdoch through 2018. There is a theory there that it might be to prevent him from taking a more active role with the Trump campaign.