Roger Ailes has resigned as chairman and CEO of Fox News Channel effective immediately. 21st Century Fox Executive Co-Chairman Rupert Murdoch will assume his responsibilities.
The man credited with founding the network exits in disgrace amid a lawsuit filed on July 6 by former “Real Story” host Gretchen Carlson, who accuses her erstwhile boss of sexual harassment. 21st Century Fox swiftly opened an ongoing investigation into the claims that remains ongoing.
“Roger Ailes has made a remarkable contribution to our company and our country. Roger shared my vision of a great and independent television organization and executed it brilliantly over 20 great years,” Murdoch said in a statement obtained by TheWrap.
Carlson’s lawsuit against Ailes claims he sexually propositioned her, then fired her in retaliation after she complained about discrimination and harassment. Ailes has called her claims “false” and “offensive,” and promised a vigorous defense.
While numerous Fox News employees have publicly defended Ailes, Megyn Kelly was oddly silent until a New York magazine report, also by Sherman, claimed she, too, was harassed by Ailes.
Until a permanent replacement for the decades-long chairman is named, Murdoch has commandeered the reins of Fox News and Fox Business channels.
“To ensure continuity of all that is best about Fox News and what it stands for, I will take over as Chairman and acting CEO, with the support of our existing management team under Bill Shine, Jay Wallace and Mark Kranz,” Murdoch said.
Shine has been mentioned as Ailes’ likely successor.
Ailes is set to get about $40 million as part of a severance agreement, according to media reports. That sum essentially equals the amount of money that he is still due under his current employment contract, which was set to expire in 2018. His departure deal also includes a provision that he not start a Fox News competitor, and he will remain as an interim adviser to Rupert Murdoch.
Ailes is a television and Republican icon whose departure from Fox News represents a precipitous fall from grace. He started his career as a staffer on “The Mike Douglas Show” back in 1962 and was the program’s executive producer by 1967. While working on the program, Ailes developed a relationship with Richard Nixon and eventually worked on his presidential campaign.
Ailes has been a prominent member of the GOP ever since, working on several campaigns including George H.W. Bush’s successful 1988 presidential bid. He withdrew from political consulting in 1992, but is rumored to have advised Republican leaders in the years since, notably George W. Bush following the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
Ailes is credited with bringing opinion back to news coverage, starting with America’s Talking, an NBC-owned network that eventually became CNBC. Ailes has also produced Broadway plays, served as president of CNBC and hosted a short-lived talk show during his career.
Ailes was named the founding CEO of Fox News in 1996 and the network quickly gained popularity while he called the shots. Fox News is now regularly among the most-watched networks in all of cable and dominates the cable news category.