Fox News' legal troubles grow as federal prosecutors expand investigation

Rupert Murdoch wouldn't issue a statement of support for Fox News president Bill Shine.
(Image credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

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."

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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."

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Peter Weber

Peter Weber is a senior editor at TheWeek.com, and has handled the editorial night shift since the website launched in 2008. A graduate of Northwestern University, Peter has worked at Facts on File and The New York Times Magazine. He speaks Spanish and Italian and plays bass and rhythm cello in an Austin rock band. Follow him on Twitter.