The accounts of six women claiming they had faced sexual harassment at the hands of Fox News Channel chief Roger Ailes surfaced Saturday, raising scrutiny of one of the most influential figures in TV news and further pressing the case of former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson, who earlier this week filed a lawsuit against the prominent 21st Century Fox executive alleging similar charges.
In a report posted by New York magazine, the women offered details and suggested Ailes expected sexual favors in exchange for employment during his tenure as a producer on TV’s “The Mike Douglas Show” and in other positions he hel before he became chairman and chief executive of Fox News. The women told the magazine that he also expected favors for his friends and colleagues.
In a prepared statement, an attorney for Ailes said the allegations made in the New York article were untrue: “It has become obvious that Ms. Carlson and her lawyer are desperately attempting to litigate this in the press because they have no legal case to argue. The latest allegations, all 30 to 50 years old, are false.”
But attorneys for Carlson said the accounts were valid and should be paid heed. “Women have the right to speak out — whether Ailes likes it or not — even about trauma they endured years ago and that haunts them to this day. Calling these women liars because they chose to speak out is despicable. Bullying and threats will not silence these brave women,” said Nancy Erika Smith and Martin Hyman, attorneys for Gretchen Carlson, in a statement.
The incendiary accounts mark the latest development in a high-profile showdown that has drawn attention throughout the media industry. Fox News Channel is the nation’s most-watched cable-news network, an influential player in the daily news cycle as well as this year’s Presidential election, and an integral financial component in the operations of its parent company, 21st Century Fox.
Two of the six women in the article, written by Gabriel Sherman, who wrote an unauthorized 2014 biography of Ailes, spoke on the records, while the four others provided accounts on the condition of anonymity.
One, Kellie Boyle, a former Republican National Committee field adviser, said Ailes made advances on her. “That’s how all these men in media and politics work — everyone’s got their friend.” When she rebuffed him, she claimed, he shut her out of a job opportunity.
Another woman, who spoke off the record, recalled an experience in 1967 when she was 16 years old. She had a walk-on part for “The Mike Douglas Show” and Ailes took her to his office, pulled down his pants and asked her to “kiss” his genitals.
These accounts follow allegations from Carlson, who earlier filed a lawsuit in Superior Court of New Jersey alleging that Ailes made sexual advances on her during her time at Fox News, and declined to renew her contract after she rebuffed them and complained about her treatment on the Fox News morning program “Fox & Friends. In her complaint, she also alleged “Friends” co-anchor Steve Doocy treated her badly. Ailes has said the allegations are false and come in retaliation for Carlson’s contract not being renewed. The network’s parent company has said it is opening an internal review into the allegations against both Doocy and Ailes.
On Friday, Ailes’ attorney filed a motion in federal court pushing to have the suit moved to arbitration, citing breaches in clauses in Carlson’s employment contract.
[Updated, 1:37 PM PT]