Now we know why Gretchen Carlson left “Fox and Friends,” was moved to the blah afternoon slot from 2 to 4pm on Fox News, and was eventually dismissed on June 23rd without cause. She claims in a lawsuit that Steve Doocy harassed her on the morning show, Fox News chief Roger Ailes demoted her and harassed her some more, and now she is gone.
Carlson– a Stanford University graduate and former Miss America– says Ailes propositioned her when she went to him to discuss her demotions. She says he said, “I think you and I should have had a sexual relationship a long time ago, and then you’d be good and better and I’d be good and better.”
The lawsuit– filled with detail and pretty grim– is the talk of the New York media world this afternoon. It comes at a tricky time for Ailes, who spent the better part of the year fighting with Donald Trump over the coverage he received from Megyn Kelly.
It also comes as James and Lachlan Murdoch have wrested power of News Corp from their doddering father, Rupert Murdoch. They got rid of the NY Post’s long time editor, Col Allan. The word is they’d like to do the same to Ailes. A couple of years ago in the New York Times, their sister Elisabeth’s now former husband Matthew Freud said of Ailes: “I am by no means alone within the family or the company in being ashamed and sickened by Roger Ailes’s horrendous and sustained disregard of the journalistic standards that News Corporation, its founder and every other global media business aspires to.”
Ailes and Fox News are not strangers to the land of sexual harassment. In 2004, Fox News settled a multi-million lawsuit brought against Bill O’Reilly by producer Andrea Mackris. O’Reilly has since generated headlines about his own marriage. Since divorced, he lost a custody battle this past winter.
Carlson, however, is not an unknown entity like Mackris. And times have changed since 2004. Carlson is respected and high profile. Nothing explained her departure from “Fox and Friends” where she was the only level head among jackals. Ailes lured her to Fox from CBS News, not the National Enquirer. She’s no airhead. Carlson says that when she complained to Ailes in 2009 that co-anchor Steve Doocy was harassing her, Ailes told her she was a “man hater” and a “killer” and “needed to get along with the boys.”
Even if (and it’s likely) Carlson settles with Fox News, the damage has been to Ailes. My sources say that the Murdoch brothers knew about this last week, and allowed it to go public. If that’s the case, Ailes may be headed to early retirement before the presidential election. And that would be quite an irony after everything else that has transpired this year.
And who would run Fox News in Ailes’s absence? That, my friends, is the $64 million question.