December 18, 2017

Last week, Fox News chairman Rupert Murdoch brushed off the sexual misconduct cases that ended the careers of the network's top star, Bill O'Reilly, and its top executive, Roger Ailes, telling Britain's Sky News that "it's all nonsense" and "isolated incidents," suggesting the sexual abuse claims were "largely political because we are conservative." CNN's Brian Stelter played Murdoch's comments on Sunday, then gave the floor to former Fox News contributor Tamara Holder, who said Murdoch's statements freed her of the silence imposed under her $2.5 million settlement with Fox News.

Fox News will probably sue her, but "I legally have a right to respond if I am disparaged or defamed," Holder said. "What Mr. Murdoch said, in my opinion as a lawyer, not as a victim or a survivor, is that this gives me a legal right to respond," both for herself and the other victims who can't come forward. "If this is political, then let's take these cases to trial," she added. "Let's open it up. You're the ones who wanted to settle. You're the ones who wanted us to be quiet."

Part of the settlement was a lifetime ban from even applying to work for a 21st Century Fox company, Holder said. "Fox News ruined people's lives," she said. Murdoch "ruined my life. I don't have a job in TV anymore because the place he has secured down like Fort Knox allowed abusive predators to prey on women who just wanted to work." Without naming names, she gave some details of her sexual assault, and criticized Murdoch's characterization of what went on at his company. "He said there were cases that amounted to flirting. Let me be clear. I had a man pull out his penis in his office and shove my head on it — that was not flirting, that was criminal."

"It's just pain on top of pain on top of pain," Holder said. Peter Weber

May 18, 2017

Fox News founder Roger Ailes died Thursday at the age of 77. While he was ousted as CEO of the network last year over mounting sexual harassment allegations, the mark he left on cable news and the conservative movement as a whole are undeniable.

But Ailes reportedly looked down his nose at the people he catered to, Joan Walsh writes for The Nation, recalling her only meeting with Ailes in 2000:

"I created a TV network for people 55 to dead," Ailes boasted to us. "Nobody believed it could be done, but I did it. It's for guys who sit on their couch with the remote all day and night." That seemed a condescending way to talk about his audience — not to mention, much of the Republican base — but it was fascinating anyway.

"And they don't want to see anyone like you," he continued, looking directly at me. I wasn't sure whether he meant a liberal, or a brunette newswoman in a dark pantsuit. "They don't want to see you — they don't even want to know that you exist!" And he was obliging them: He'd created a world where women were blonde and wore short tight skirts, men were in charge, and articulate, principled, complicated liberals — especially women — didn't exist. [The Nation]

Read Walsh's full account at The Nation and read about Ailes' legacy and cable news revolution here at The Week. Jeva Lange

May 15, 2017
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It has been 10 months since Fox News forced out CEO Roger Ailes after dozens of women accused him of sexual harassment — and other than paying $45 million in harassment settlements, firing star Bill O'Reilly, pushing out co-president Bill Shine, losing Megyn Kelly and Greta Van Susteren, and staring down a widening federal investigation, surprisingly little has changed at Fox News, says Gabriel Sherman at New York. Ailes and O'Reilly deny the harassment claims, and O'Reilly told Glenn Beck on Friday that his firing was "a hit" by an "organized left-wing cabal," and he's "going to take action — mostly legal action."

But "while the growing chorus of allegations from former employees are making Rupert Murdoch's cable news network sound more like a malevolent bachelor party in Las Vegas," says Ben Schreckinger at Politico, "what happens at Fox News is not staying at Fox News," with the damage "increasingly spilling outside its walls and creating ramifications for local and national political figures." Most immediately, the scandal is hurting the political ambitions of New York mayoral candidate Richard "Bo" Dietl — a private investigator who has acknowledged investigating O'Reilly accuser Andrea Mackris and Ailes accuser Gretchen Carlson — and aspiring Virginia politician Pete Snyder, accused of running a "sock-puppet" operation.

Less immediately affected are two of President Trump's top advisers, White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon and longtime confidante Roger Stone, a veteran political dirty trickster. Stone "was paid for off-air work that included keeping tabs on [New York's] Sherman and publicly criticizing Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy," Politico says, citing "three people familiar with the arrangement." The negative articles he wrote about Sherman were reportedly at the behest of Fox News. (Stone said Sherman and Ailes are "both friends of mine" and he was intervening to "try to keep the two of them from killing each other.")

Bannon also coordinated with Fox News to publish negative articles about Sherman, when Sherman was publishing a book about Ailes, Politico says, citing "three people familiar with the situation." At a meeting with Ailes and others at Fox News in 2014, Bannon reportedly advocated "all out war" against Sherman, and Bannon's Breitbart News later published many critical articles on Sherman. "There is no indication that Bannon was paid to do this, though at the time he enjoyed a symbiotic relationship with Fox, which promoted his conservative documentaries," Schreckinger says. You can read more at Politico. Peter Weber

May 5, 2017
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Two top aides to ousted Fox News chief Roger Ailes have been subpoenaed and met with federal prosecutors in New York, as a federal investigation into Fox News' handling of sexual abuse settlements expands into a look at alleged intimidation tactics against perceived threats, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times reported Thursday night. Both men — former CFO Mark Kranz, who resigned last year, and former public relations chief Brian Lewis, fired in 2013 — have reportedly been granted immunity from prosecution. The investigation is being conducted by two prosecutors in the securities fraud unit at the U.S. Attorney's office in Manhattan and criminal investigators from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, a federal law enforcement agency that helps tackle white-collar crime.

The federal investigators have also interviewed at least two women who have accused Ailes of sexual harassment, on-air contributor Julie Roginsky and former director of corporate events Lauri Lunh, The Wall Street Journal reports. Along with investigating whether the settlements paid to accusers violated securities laws, the feds are looking into Ailes' use of a private investigator, Bo Dietl, to dig into the background of women accusing Ailes and ousted Fox News star Bill O'Reilly of sexual harassment. Ailes and O'Reilly deny the harassment accusations.

Separately, a former Fox News Radio reporter, Jessica Golloher, sued Fox News on Thursday for gender discrimination, saying that she was told her position was being eliminated less than 24 hours after reporting the years of alleged discrimination to human resources, as encouraged last month. The suit says Golloher was told her duties were being reassigned to freelancers, but that's "entirely pretextual, as it is apparent that Fox will replace Ms. Golloher." Fox News says her suit is "without merit."

Finally, one of O'Reilly's accusers, Wendy Walsh, and lawyer Lisa Bloom are meeting in London on Monday with British regulators at the Office of Communications (Ofcom), which is considering the move by 21st Century Fox — the parent company of Fox News, controlled by Rupert Murdoch — to purchase the rest of satellite TV broadcaster Sky. Buying Sky is a long-time goal of Murdoch, and Bloom wrote Ofcom last month, saying "the similarities between the current harassment scandal and the [2011] phone-hacking scandal reveal the company's approach to business and management — a lack of oversight, intervention, and decency." Peter Weber

April 27, 2017

Sometimes a last-minute vacation is just a vacation. And sometimes, it's a little more permanent, as Fox News star Bill O'Reilly illustrated earlier this month. O'Reilly, facing an exodus of advertisers after it was revealed he and Fox News had settled five claims of sexual and verbal harassment for $13 million, unexpectedly announced a family vacation, and he was fired while still in Italy. Jesse Watters, O'Reilly's former on-the-street guy and now a host on The Five, announced at the end of Wednesday night's show that he is going on vacation until Monday. His The Five co-host Kimberly Guilfoyle will cover his weekend show, Watters' World.

Watters raised some eyebrows on Tuesday night when he made a comment about Ivanka Trump and how he "really liked how she was speaking into that microphone." Some observers took the comment as suggestive, especially when combined with his facial expression and a hand gesture he made while saying it. On Twitter, Watters protested that interpretation, insisting he was just "referring to Ivanka's voice and how it resonates like a smooth jazz radio DJ," and it "was in no way a joke about anything else."

"So, to recap, Watters is going to miss the final two broadcasts of The Five's first week in primetime, as well as his weekend show," says a skeptical Justin Baragona at Mediaite, which has Wednesday night's clip. "All to take a short family vacation that hadn't been announced until this evening. And this just coincidentally occurs following this latest flap — a flap that happened just a week after the network parted ways with its biggest star over a sexual harassment scandal. Got it." Though, to be fair, Tuesday night's comments are hardly the most offensive thing Watters has said on air. Peter Weber

April 25, 2017
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Last August, former Fox News anchor Andrea Tantaros filed suit against her erstwhile employer, memorably alleging that despite Fox News' promotion of traditional family values on air, "behind the scenes, it operates like a sex-fueled, Playboy Mansion-like cult, steeped in intimidation, indecency, and misogyny." That suit is in arbitration, but on Monday, Tantaros reached into popular culture again to allege in a new federal lawsuit that after she accused since-ousted Fox News chief Roger Ailes of sexually harassing her in 2015, the network hacked her personal laptop and cyberstalked her using "sock-puppet" social media accounts, like on an episode of Homeland.

Fox News sent operatives to install surveillance software on her computer, monitored her phone conversations, and then used the private information it gleaned about her to "intimidate, terrorize, and crush her career through an endless stream of lewd, offensive, and career-damaging social media posts, blog entries, and commentary," according to Tarantos' lawsuit. Her lawyer, Judd Burstein, said it amounted to "cyberstalking on steroids," with the network having "harassed her through sock-puppet social media accounts which conveyed the illegal fruits of their electronic surveillance of her. It was in essence two crimes committed at the same time."

Fox News, through its lawyers, said the network and its executives "flatly deny that they conducted any electronic surveillance of Ms. Tantaros" and "have no knowledge of the anonymous or pseudonymous tweets described in her complaint." Susan Estrich, a lawyer for Ailes, said the new suit has no merit and called it another "obvious attempt to get publicity." Burstein noted that News International, a news organization that, like Fox News, is owned by the Murdoch family, faced a damaging phone-hacking scandal in Britain in 2011. Ailes and Fox News star Bill O'Reilly were both fired, with generous severance packages, following multiple sexual harassment allegations. Peter Weber

April 12, 2017

On Tuesday's O'Reilly Factor, embattled host Bill O'Reilly announced that he is going on vacation.

Advertisers have been fleeing O'Reilly's show since The New York Times reported last week that he and Fox News paid $13 million to settle sexual harassment allegations against O'Reilly from five women since 2002. Fox News' parent company, 21st Century Fox, has also hired a law firm to investigate a harassment complaint from onetime O'Reilly Factor regular Wendy Walsh. O'Reilly said on Tuesday's show that this vacation to an undisclosed location has been in the works since last fall, and a Fox News spokesman told New York's Gabriel Sherman that O'Reilly will return on April 24. Still, Sherman said, "according to four network sources, there's talk inside Fox News that tonight's show could be his last."

Fox News co-president Bill Shine is pressing to keep O'Reilly, the network's biggest ratings draw, according to Sherman's sources, while 21st Century Fox CEO James Murdoch wants him gone; Rupert Murdoch reportedly leans toward keeping O'Reilly, as does James' brother Lachlan. "That dynamic — James pushing for swift action, while Rupert resists — played out last summer in the [Roger] Ailes scandal," Sherman notes. "James, of course, got his way with Ailes." O'Reilly wants viewers to guess where he's vacationing, but he promised, "I'll have a full report when I return." Stay tuned. Peter Weber

April 4, 2017
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The O'Reilly Factor is down 18 advertisers, with several luxury carmakers, pharmaceutical giants, insurance companies, and even a dog food manufacturer pulling their ads from the show after it was reported that host Bill O'Reilly and Fox News paid $13 million to settle complaints from five women who accused O'Reilly of sexual harassment and verbal abuse.

Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai, BMW of North America, Mitsubishi Motors, Lexus, Constant Contact, Bayer, Orkin, Ainsworth Pet Nutrition, Allstate, Esurance, T. Rowe Price, GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi, Credit Karma, Wayfair, UNTUCKit, and TrueCar are all stopping their ads from running during The O'Reilly Factor, CNN reports. Most of those companies have released statements condemning harassment, including Mercedes-Benz, which called the allegations against O'Reilly "disturbing." Paul Rittenberg, executive vice president of advertising sales at Fox News, released a statement on Tuesday saying the network values "our partners and are working with them to address their current concerns about The O'Reilly Factor. At this time, the ad buys of those clients have been re-expressed into other FNC programs."

The O'Reilly Factor is the most popular news show on cable, and one advertiser, online directory Angie's List, told CNN it has "no plans to change our ad buy," adding, "just as we trust members to make their own hiring decisions, we trust them to make their own media consumption decisions." Catherine Garcia

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