Former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson has reached a détente of sorts with the network’s parent over charges she was sexually harassed by Roger Ailes, the cable-news network’s former leader and guiding light.
The media conglomerate, controlled by the Murdoch family, said it had reached a settlement with Carlson, who anchored such programs as “Fox & Friends” and “The Real Story” during her time at the outlet. A report in Vanity Fair suggested the amount could total as much as $20 million, and a person familiar with the matter said the report was accurate. A spokesman for Carlson’s attorneys declined to comment.
“21st Century Fox is pleased to announce that it has settled Gretchen Carlson’s lawsuit. During her tenure at Fox News, Gretchen exhibited the highest standards of journalism and professionalism. She developed a loyal audience and was a daily source of information for many Americans. We are proud that she was part of the Fox News team,” the company said in a statement. “We sincerely regret and apologize for the fact that Gretchen was not treated with the respect and dignity that she and all of our colleagues deserve.”
The settlement would appear to close at least one of the many storylines related to the behavior of Ailes, who was the subject of a lawsuit Carlson filed in July alleging the executive had subjected her to sexual come-one and other inappropriate behavior. Her suit sparked an internal investigation at the news outlet, which is the most-watched cable-news network and which has a significant influence on the news cycle. Other women are said to have come forward at Fox News alleging sexual harassment by Ailes, and there is speculation the parent company will bring in a new executive to lead the network. Rupert Murdoch, executive chairman of 21st Century Fox, has stepped in to lead Fox News on an interim basis and Bill Shine and Jack Abernethy, two veteran Fox TV executives were recently named co-presidents and will lead Fox News and Fox Business.
Since Carlson stepped forward, a phalanx of press reports cited accounts from women – some former Fox News employees, others who had interacted with Ailes in earlier parts of his career – who alleged he had propositioned them sexually, and hurt their careers if they refused his entreaties.
“I am gratified that 21st Century Fox took decisive action after I filed my complaint,” Carlson said in a statement. “I’m ready to move on to the next chapter of my life.” Ailes has in the past denied the allegations. Oddly, Fox’s statement did not mention the executive once.
New York magazine had reported that Carlson had taped her conversations with Ailes over the course of a year. Fox’s decision to settle with her raises some questions, as her attorneys had filed charges against Ailes, not the company. Is Fox taking responsibility for fees that might have been Ailes’ responsibility? Ailes is believed to have departed 21st Century Fox with an agreement that won him a payout of about $40 million, or the salary he would have earned under his most recent contract.
In taking legal action and speaking out about her treatment at the network, Carlson has put into place a massive shift at what is arguably the financial engine of 21st Century Fox. Fox News contributes approximately 20% of the company’s annual cash flow. Ailes had a strong hand in transforming the network from a start-up in 1996 that had to push for carriage on Time Warner Cable into an influential organization that can be as controversial and polarizing as it is populist and broadly appealing.
In her lawsuit, filed in Superior Court of New Jersey, Carlson alleged she was removed from “Fox & Friends” in 2013 after she complained about behavior by co-host Steve Doocy, and then moved to an afternoon program as a way to diminish her presence at the network. Carlson alleged she was terminated on June 23 after her current contract elapsed.