Media mogul Roger Ailes may be out the door at Fox News, the media company he started 20 years ago, after anchor Gretchen Carlson filed a lawsuit accusing him of sexual harassment—charges that were followed by similar accusations from several women who had interacted with Ailes since the 1960s.
While negotiations continue, there is speculation that Ailes' ouster will be cushioned by an extraordinary golden parachute, including a consultancy clause and a possible $40 million severance payout. Details of that plan were posted online Tuesday afternoon by the Drudge Report, prompting Fox lawyers to tell reporters that version was not final. Drudge pulled its headline minutes after posting it.
Ailes has been a powerful figure in the media industry for decades, establishing Fox News as the foremost outlet for conservative politics and building it into a "top-rated cable news network and a critical profit center for 21st Century Fox," as the New York Times puts it. (21st Century Fox is controlled by the family of Ailes ally and co-mogul Rupert Murdoch.)
Carlson's lawsuit accuses Ailes of having her fired from her weekday show at Fox News after she rejected his sexual advances. In the days that followed the lawsuit's filing, numerous women—including models, actresses, media consultants, the former Republican National Committee field adviser, and Carlson's Fox News colleague and one of the network's most bankable stars, Megyn Kelly—all came out with their own stories of being sexually harassed and retaliated against by Ailes.
The mogul's downfall comes at a time when Fox News is outperforming nearly all other media outlets, making it an "unmatched power" in the business, as Guardian columnist Richard Wolffe writes. So his firing represents part of "the Great Unraveling of the Republican party," also punctuated by internal revolt among elected officials who refuse to support their own presidential nominee.
Its ideological intellectuals openly disdain and plot against the party's nominee. Its elected officials are too busy to show up to their own party's convention.
And now the conservative echo chamber itself is collapsing across the mainstream media it surely dominates.
The rapid demise of Roger Ailes at Fox News Channel is as seismic an event as Trump's nomination. For Ailes ruled over a conservative media and political empire that stretched far beyond cable television.
Nixon's former image-maker could make or break presidential campaigns, elected officials, TV anchors, talk radio and the pundit class. When Candidate Obama tried personally to woo Murdoch and Ailes in 2008, he found Murdoch far more reasonable than Ailes, who was convinced the young senator represented a mortal threat to the republic.
Also coming amid Melania Trump's plagiarism scandal, the ouster of Ailes has the Republican party's own strategists expecting an "epic defeat," he continues. "The party and its leaders cannot now escape their own fates."
Politico similarly reports that "Fox staffers working at the convention on Tuesday afternoon were in shock, with many in disbelief that anything was actually happening. No internal announcement had gone out to staff by the afternoon."
Meanwhile, a flurry of internal leaks that came Tuesday seemed to indicate that Murdoch's sons, James and Lachlan, wanted Ailes to publicly "accept responsibility for errors in judgement," while Murdoch, Sr. pushed for a "soft landing in the form of a cash settlement," Politico adds.
If rumors of the $40 million payout have legs, what could Ailes do with that money? Politico continues:
Just as the prime-time programming for the RNC was getting started, news from conservative digital news outlet Breitbart: "At least one top talent inside Fox News has confirmed to Breitbart News that a major talent meeting among various different hosts is scheduled, and they are considering leaving with Roger Ailes to form a new network to compete with Fox."
As the second night of the Republican National Convention (RNC) got underway in Cleveland with speeches ranging from somewhat political to downright baffling, the behind-the-scenes chaos at Ailes' media empire was concisely summed up by the front page headline of the New York Post—also owned by Murdoch—which simply stated: "WHAT THE FOX!"