Megyn Kelly, one of Fox News Channel’s most prominent anchors, may have alleged as part of an internal review that the network’s chief made unwanted sexual advances on her a decade ago, according to a new report by New York magazine.
A spokesman for 21st Century Fox said the company declined to comment on the allegations made in the story, which is based on accounts from two anonymous sources. A spokeswoman for Fox News Channel was not able to offer immediate comment.
According to the report, Kelly has told a law firm brought in to investigate sexual harassment charges leveled at Ailes by former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson that Ailes made unwanted advances on her about ten years ago, much earlier in her tenure at the 21st Century Fox-owned cable-news outlet. The report said that Ailes has been told he has until August 1 to resign or be fired.
“Megyn proved she is the most powerful woman in that building,” said one person familiar with Fox News operations.
Kelly’s potential involvement is the latest twist in a saga that threatens the viability of 21st Century Fox’s most profitable asset. If Ailes’ leadership of the network is no longer viable, the company, which backs everything from “The Simpsons” to “sportscasters like Erin Andrews and Colin Cowherd, might have to navigate a new direction for the nation’s most-watched cable -news outlet. The success of Kelly’s primetime show, “The Kelly File,” gives her a lot of credibility at the network, which faces the potential departures of both her and Bill O’Reilly in 2017 when their contracts expire.
Her voice has yet to be heard on the Ailes matter in public. Indeed, a phalanx of Fox News hosts – Maria Bartiromo, Greta Van Susteren, O’Reilly and Neil Cavuto among them – have defended Ailes in late-night programs and press reports. Greta Van Susteren said Monday while attending the Republican National Convention in Cleveland that she “didn’t know anything” about Ailes’ status at Fox News. She also said she didn’t put much stock in reports that 21st Century Fox chiefs have decided to replace him. She noted that the investigation is ongoing “and I don’t think the lawyers are talking.” She also reiterated her belief in her earlier statement in support of Ailes. “That’s not anything I’ve ever seen from Roger,” she told Variety of the sexual harassment allegations.
Kelly, however, has remained silent, and the New York report would seem to suggest why. She started her career with Fox in its Washington bureau, having grown frustrated by life as a corporate litigator. She came to notice hosting an hour in the mid-afternoon and has added new luster to a primetime lineup that had not changed in years before she moved into the 9 p.m. slot in the fall of 2013.
The uncertainty about Ailes, the allegations made against him and his role at the company have left Fox News staff grasping to figure out what to do next, said the person familiar with the network. “Under normal circumstances, most people could just go about their jobs, but Roger is such a commanding presence in those jobs, people just don’t know what to do,” this person said. “For a company that is so tightly controlled and on message, this is uncharted territory.”
The Fox News furor was sparked by a lawsuit filed earlier this month by Gretchen Carlson, a veteran of both the network’s “Fox & Friends” morning program as well as its early-afternoon schedule. In her lawsuit, filed in Superior Court of New Jersey, Carlson alleged that she was removed from “Fox & Friends” in 2013 after she complained about behavior by co-host Steve Doocy, and was subsequently moved to an afternoon program as a way to diminish her presence at the network. Carlson also alleged she was propositioned sexually by Ailes and subjected to other unwanted behavior. Carlson alleged she was terminated on June 23 after her current contract elapsed.
In a previous statement, Ailes said her charges were “false” and came in retaliation for her contract not being renewed. Lawyers working on his behalf have filed motions to move her case to arbitration and to have it heard in New York City rather than New Jersey.
The matter is complicated by the fact that Carlson’s attorneys have sued Ailes, but not Fox News or its corporate parent. Meantime, Carlson’s attorneys said they filed motions late Monday asking the court in New Jersey to proceed despite Ailes’ motions. ““We want to stop Roger Ailes’ legal maneuvering and get a ruling on Gretchen’s demand for a jury trial without delay. Therefore, we have asked the Court in New Jersey to proceed and to order Ailes to dismiss his new action recently filed in New York,” said attorney Nancy Erika Smith in a prepared statement. “We have also asked the Court to rule now that Ms. Carlson did not ever waive her right to sue Ailes in open court. If the judge thinks there are outstanding issues with regard to that, we are entitled to have a jury determine whether there was ever an arbitration agreement between Ms. Carlson & Mr. Ailes.”
–Cynthia Littleton contributed to this report