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How Far Will The Sexual Harassment Scandal At Fox News Spread?

As I wrote in my last post, the real question about Fox News without Roger Ailes is not how many more women will come forward but how far the contagion spreads.
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As I wrote in my last post, the real question about Fox News without Roger Ailes is not how many more women will come forward but how far the contagion spreads. New York Magazin'es Gabriel Sherman has alleged a cover up by the same top executives serving as Fox’s interim leaders and are now being considered as replacements for Ailes.

Sherman, a biographer of Roger Ailes and an editor at New York Magazine, has been at the forefront of reporting on the Ailes story since former Fox host Gretchen Carlson filed a lawsuit accusing him of sexual harassment. Today, Sherman appeared on CNN’s Reliable sources and said that “more than 25 people” have come forward “to describe instances and episodes of sexual harassment” to the law firm designated by Fox’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, to investigate the matter. “This is really about a culture that Ailes enabled,” Sherman added.

A lengthy report in today’s New York Times seems to back that up.

But Sherman noted that the story “going forward” has widened from Ailes to other top Fox executives.

Quote below are from the CNN transcript, with my emphases:

SHERMAN: The Murdochs are looking at the existing leadership at FOX News as possible replacements for Ailes. The critical issue is that a lot of the main players, especially Bill Shine, Roger Ailes’ deputy who’s in charge of programming and the FOX Business Network currently, played an integral role in the cover-up of these sexual harassment claims.

Hearing the word “cover-up” gave host Brian Stelter pause. “You said ‘cover up of these claims.’ You’re saying that this man, Bill Shine, and others covered up what Ailes was doing?”

Yes, that’s exactly what Sherman was saying. He had detailed at least some of it in an article yesterday.

SHERMAN: The way they did that, Brian, the reason I used those strong words, is they pushed women into confidential mediation, signing nondisclosure agreements in exchange for their contracts to be paid, these women needed to make a living. They signed nondisclosure agreements. And as we have seen for the last 19 years, these allegations were not private. I have seen internal documents. I interviewed one of the women, Rudi Bakhtiar, on the record, as did the “New York Times”.


↓ Story continues below ↓

And if you see this, Bill Shine, Dianne Brandi, FOX News’s general counsel, a lot of the senior executives around Roger Ailes, were fully aware of this culture. Let’s be very clear, they knew exactly what was going on, they did not speak up.

[…]

STELTER: You’re saying, Gabe, this is going to spread quite a bit further?

SHERMAN: Yes, people I talked to inside the company feel that the only way to change the FOX News culture is to move out all the executives that Ailes had elevated into positions of power. There was a loyalty test.

Another thing that I’m hearing is that Bill Shine, Roger Ailes’ deputy, played a role in rallying the women to speak out against Roger Ailes accusers, and lead this counter-narrative to try to say, don’t believe Gretchen Carlson and the allegations. If that is indeed the case, that again—the Murdochs will have to say, this is a guy, these are managers who helped enable and tried to protect Roger Ailes who presided over this culture.

At that point, CNN’s Dylan Byers and Bill Carter noted that getting rid of Ailes’ lieutenants could be catastrophic to the network and to Republican politics.

BYERS: Look, it’s clear that there’s a culture there and it’s pretty pervasive and that obviously raises some questions for the Murdochs about how far this needs to go, how far the internal reviews need to go.

But, again, I want to go back to just thinking about this as a business. It’s one thing to get rid of Roger Ailes, and it’s quite a huge and historic thing to get rid of Roger Ailes. These are these executives who sort of keep the ship running, they keep things going on a day to day basis.

If you’re starting to talk about getting rid of Bill—you know, Bill Shine, Jay Wallace, Michael Clemente, all of those figures, you’re running into a situation where you really have no one who knows how to run this network on a day-to-day basis. That would actually purely from keeping this thing going and I do think FOX News—

STELTER: Yes.

BYERS: -- at least in the short to, you know, mid-term, is going to be just fine. If you get rid of that entire level or if there are questions around those people, that’s truly catastrophic to the network on how it functions on a day-to-day basis.

CARTER: And think of the timing of that, Brian.

[…]

This is right when FOX would be out front in pushing the narrative that the Republican Party wants to push in this election. And if some of their top executives are removed, it’s going to put a cloud over that, how are they going to effectively do it? They have done it very effectively in the past.

And, you know, I think they have been very effective in launching Donald Trump. So, it could have very big impact on this election.

Personally, I doubt the Murdochs will want to go that far. But will the court of public opinion force their hand?

Stay tuned.

Watch the discussion above from CNN’s July 24 Reliable Sources.

Crossposted at News Hounds.
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