The days that passed between the moment when Gretchen Carlson filed a sexual-harassment lawsuit against former Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes and the day that he resigned from the network were filled with turmoil, surprises and chaos, according to Vanity Fair.
Reporter Sarah Ellison’s exposé, “How the most powerful man in cable news was toppled in 16 whirlwind days,” sheds new dramatic light on Ailes’ remarkable fall after Carson’s sexual harassment claim resulted in numerous women coming forward with similar charges. While Ailes denies everything, Fox News settled with Carlson and even issued a public apology.
Here are 6 of the most shocking takeaways, ranging from Ailes being banned from the building to Megyn Kelly refusing to go to bat for her boss.
Ailes was banned from Fox News headquarters
When the Murdochs decided Ailes was finished at the network, they didn’t mess around when it came to blocking his access, according to VF.
“While Ailes was on his way to the office, the head of security at 21st Century Fox told Ailes’s driver to circle the block a few times in order to delay his arrival, giving Fox time to deprogram his access cards and disconnect his phone and e-mail,” Ellison wrote. “[Ailes] tried to reach several Fox News executives that day, but all of them had been told to cut off all contact with him. By the end of the day he had signed the separation agreement.”
Carlson had planned the lawsuit long before it was filed
“Carlson had been speaking to her attorney, Nancy Erika Smith, of the firm Smith Mullin, about her treatment at Fox and a possible suit against Ailes, since the fall of 2015,” Ellison wrote. “She had spent the past year gathering evidence by surreptitiously recording a number of conversations with Ailes. She hadn’t been planning to actually file until September 2016, but by not renewing the contract Fox News had inadvertently sped up the time-table. Carlson quickly called her attorney, who was recovering from surgery on a hamstring. They rushed to ready their legal action.”
Rupert Murdoch’s sons once confronted their father with concerns Wendi Dang was having an affair
Rupert was on a flight when the Ailes news first broke, so his sons James and Lachlan Murdoch decided to launch an internal investigation on their own — which is similar to what they did when they suspected their stepmother, Wendi Dang, was cheating on their father.
“The sons together approached Rupert with a dossier they had compiled on Wendi,” Ellison wrote.
A “paranoid” Ailes consulted Donald Trump about initial lawsuit
Ailes was not in the office on the day the Carlson lawsuit was filed, according to the VF story before detailing that he had become “paranoid” and has deteriorating physical health.
“Despite his apparent physical frailty, Ailes remained robust in his desire to fight Carlson’s claims. He wanted to deny all of the allegations vehemently, and he wanted the company to back him up, as it always had. But Murdoch’s sons had already made a decision,” Ellison wrote.
Ailes needed a strategy, so what did he do?
“Ailes had consulted with his longtime friend Donald Trump about the matter, and Trump had suggested that Ailes hire Michael Sirota, a New Jersey-based attorney who specialized in bankruptcy and commercial litigation,” Ellison wrote.” Trump’s suggestion of an attorney of this sort seemed to have more to do with Trump’s worldview than with Roger Ailes’s current peril.”
Sirota reportedly suggested that a local public-relations executive, Karen Kessler, join the conversation, but according to the story, Kessler was not retained after telling Ailes to “go watch the Golf Channel and relax.”
Rudy Giuliani wanted to participate in the internal investigation
“Ailes spoke with Rudy Giuliani, a senior adviser at the firm Greenberg Traurig, and asked for his help,” Ellison wrote. “Ailes had been Giuliani’s media adviser during his 1989 campaign for mayor of New York, and Giuliani had officiated at Ailes’s third wedding, to Beth. Giuliani promptly got in touch with Gerson Zweifach, saying that he was calling on behalf of Ailes. [Gerson] Zweifach [the general counsel of 21st Century Fox] had already decided to hire the law firm Paul, Weiss to conduct the internal investigation into Ailes’s behavior.”
The story continued: “According to two executives close to the investigation, Giuliani said that he wanted to participate actively in the investigation. Zweifach refused, telling Giuliani that any such participation could mean that none of the information gathered in the investigation would be privileged, and it could, in effect, allow Gretchen Carlson’s attorney to obtain, through discovery, the testimony of everyone who participated”
VF notes that, “A person close to Giuliani disputed this version of events, but offered no specific corrections.”
Ailes’ wife asked Megyn Kelly to defend him – but she refused in a text message
“Beth Ailes read it aloud, according to a person who was in the room: Kelly was sorry, but she had been advised by the company not to speak publicly about the matter during the investigation, and she could not, therefore, speak out against Carlson. ‘I hope you understand,’ Beth Ailes read, adding that Kelly was being ‘cold’ after all Ailes had done for her,” Ellison wrote.
“By that time, according to a person familiar with what occurred, Kelly had already spoken to Lachlan Murdoch to report the general dismay among some staff, which she shared, about the pressure to come to Ailes’s aid and paint him as a white knight–pressure she felt was being exerted by Fox stars,” Ellison’s story continued.
Kelly would go on to inform the internal investigation that Ailes sexually harassed her, as well. According to VF, “at least 24 women” have come forward.
“A number of the accounts told to the investigators shared a distinct similarity. According to three people briefed on the investigation, oral sex was mentioned frequently,” Ellison wrote. “According to the executive, Beth Ailes, who was in the office daily, advocated attacking Kelly through friendly media outlets, such as Breitbart News.”