The parent company of Fox News Channel said it would launch what it called an “internal review” of sexual-harassment allegations levied against its top executive, Roger Ailes, as well as one of its most prominent personalities, Steve Doocy, by a former news anchor, Gretchen Carlson.
“The Company has seen the allegations against Mr. Ailes and Mr. Doocy,” 21st Century Fox said in a prepared statement. “We take these matters seriously. While we have full confidence in Mr. Ailes and Mr. Doocy, who have served the company brilliantly for over two decades, we have commenced an internal review of the matter.”
The company’s reaction suggested allegations made in a lawsuit Wednesday by Carlson, who anchored morning and daytime programs on Fox News over the course of 11 years, warranted some concern by senior executives at the large entertainment conglomerate, which is controlled by the Murdoch family. In the 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 Doocy, and was moved to an afternoon program as a way to diminish her presence at the network. She 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.
Ailes’ empire is an integral part of the parent company, throwing off substantial amounts of cash and helping the conglomerate gain leverage in its negotiations with cable and satellite distributors as well as advertisers. Fox cited performance at Fox News Channel as being instrumental in helping it notch increases in U.S. ad revenue and U.S. affiliate revenue in its fiscal year 2015.
In a statement, Ailes said Carlson’s allegations were untrue and motivated by her recent termination. “Gretchen Carlson’s allegations are false. This is a retaliatory suit for the network’s decision not to renew her contract, which was due to the fact that her disappointingly low ratings were dragging down the afternoon lineup. When Fox News did not commence any negotiations to renew her contract, Ms. Carlson became aware that her career with the network was likely over and conveniently began to pursue a lawsuit,” Ailes said. “Ironically, Fox News provided her with more on-air opportunities over her 11 year tenure than any other employer in the industry, for which she thanked me in her recent book. This defamatory lawsuit is not only offensive, it is wholly without merit and will be defended vigorously.”
In the past, Carlson has made statements that could appear to contradict the allegations she made. In a 2015 memoir, “Getting Real,” Carlson said that Ailes “was razor sharp and inscrutable and we seemed to have a real connection. He saw something in me that he liked – what he called my ‘killer instinct.’ He once noted that I would stop at nothing to do the job. He got me. Over the years I’ve come to value our time together. He encourages me to be myself, to relax and to not try so hard to look smart.”
An attorney for Carlson, Nancy Erika Smith, said earlier Wednesday that the newscaster’s legal team had not heard from Ailes or Fox News. She said Ailes’ attorneys had a little over a month to respond formally to the lawsuit, which would be tried in New Jersey.