Since sexual harassment claims forced Roger Ailes to step down last month, the drumbeat of allegations against the former Fox News chief has not subsided. Reports in recent days have accused Ailes of using company resources to spy on reporters he didn’t like, and suggested that Ailes may have been spying on his own staff.
The new allegations have some in New York media circles comparing the situation to the 2011 British phone-hacking scandal, which led to criminal charges and parliamentary inquiries, and which did severe and lasting damage to 21st Century Fox.
On Sunday, New York Magazine reported that Ailes maintained a “Black Room” at Fox News to conduct surveillance and smear campaigns. Political operatives and private detectives were assigned to go after his personal enemies, which included New York‘s Gabriel Sherman and Gawker journalists John Cook and Hamilton Nolan, according to the magazine. Some of the work involved opposition research, in which negative information was gathered for distribution to bloggers.
Private investigators were reportedly assigned to follow Sherman, who was also Ailes’ biographer. Politico reported that a Fox News source heard Ailes say, of Sherman,“I know where he lives, and I’m gonna send people to beat the shit out of him.” The Politico report also touched on Ailes’ close relationship with the NYPD, and suggested that he may have illegally obtained phone records.
Ailes’ leadership bred a climate of paranoia even within Fox News, according to a CNN report. Several unnamed sources were quoted saying they feared that Ailes had tapped their phones.
The reports also suggest that Ailes’ use of company resources to pursue private vendettas may have amounted to a breach of securities regulation.