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Fox News Anchors Try to Walk Back Their Defense of Roger Ailes

Greta Van Susteren Leaving Fox News
AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File

A parade of Fox News personnel came to Roger Ailes’ aid back in July after Gretchen Carlson, a former anchor at the network, accused him of sexual harassment. Now that same procession – led by a current Fox News anchor and one who recently departed – seems poised to walk itself backwards.

Greta Van Susteren and Geraldo Rivera were two of the 21st Century Fox-owned cable-news outlet’s most prominent members to defend Ailes quickly after Carlson filed a lawsuit alleging he had demoted and sexually harassed her. Within the last 24 hours, both have backed off of earlier statements.

“I regret that Roger Ailes was not supervised by those in a public corporation who had the duty to supervise him. This included his seniors, the CFO’s of both Fox News Channel and 21CF (and its predecessor NewsCorp), the Board of Directors and what I assume this public corporation had, outside auditors,” said Van Susteren in a Facebook post Friday.  “Roger resigned two days later when it became apparent that Gretchen was not alone in alleging abhorrent behavior behind his closed doors. Now I am filled with regret for stubbornly discounting their various allegations,” said Rivera via Facebook Thursday night.

Other Fox News anchors who staunchly defended Ailes include Bill O’Reilly, who proclaimed on NBC’s “Late Night with Seth Meyers” that “I stand with Roger”; Maria Bartiromo, who told Variety that a culture of sexual harassment was “just not in keeping with what I know” about Fox News; and Sean Hannity, who proclaimed the entire l’affaire Ailes to be “BS” in a Twitter post. Ainsley Earhardt, Sandra Smith, Martha MacCallum and Kimberly Guilfoyle also made public remarks in the press aligning themselves with Ailes at the time.

When the anchors made their remarks, Ailes was still in control of Fox News and many of the sordid details about his behavior had yet to be revealed. Observers took the phalanx of positive comments as a sign that the savvy news executive was still pulling strings from behind the scenes. Now, some of the TV journalists may regret their participation.

“The man we knew as the blustering genius who invented our mighty Fox News Channel is a deceitful, selfish misogynist, if the charges against him are true. And if they are true, then his shame and banishment are well earned,” said Rivera. “We all regret it,” said Van Susteren of not initially giving more credence to Carlson’s claims. Others may wonder if their quick support of Ailes undermines their journalistic credibility.

Rivera and Van Susteren have some reasons to go public. Rivera disclosed that his “uninformed support” of Ailes played a factor in the cancellation of a book deal he had with Harper Collins, a book publisher that is part of News Corp.,  a sister corporation to 21st Century Fox. Van Susteren may be looking for a new job, having parted ways with Fox News Channel earlier this week.

Will other Fox News correspondents scramble to join the new march of  mea culpa? The curious might do well to scan their various accounts on Facebook.