A source confirmed to Variety that Fox Sports is investigating sexual harassment claims against Horowitz.
In a memo to Fox Sports employees announcing Horowitz’s departure, Fox Sports president and COO Eric Shanks wrote, “Everyone at FOX Sports, no matter what role we play, or what business, function or show we contribute to — should act with respect and adhere to professional conduct at all times. These values are non-negotiable.”
Shanks added that he will assume Horowitz’s responsibilities — including programming, scheduling, and marketing for cable channels Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2 — until a replacement is named.
Horowitz, meanwhile, has hired attorney Patty Glaser, who issued a statement Monday: “The way Jamie has been treated by Fox is appalling. At no point in his tenure was there any mention by his superiors or human resources of any misconduct or an inability to adhere to professional conduct. Jamie was hired by Fox to do a job, a job that until today he has performed in an exemplary fashion. Any slanderous accusations to the contrary will be vigorously defended.”
Fox Sports, meanwhile, has retained O’Melveny & Myers’ Daniel Petrocelli, one of the nation’s most high-profile litigators, to represent the company in the matter involving Horowitz.
“Mr. Horowitz’s termination was fully warranted and his lawyer’s accusations are ill-informed and misguided,” Petrocelli said in a statement.
Fox Sports parent 21st Century Fox has been under pressure to adopt a zero-tolerance policy on sexual harassment in the wake of scandals that led to the firings of late Fox News president Roger Ailes and popular Fox News host Bill O’Reilly. Last week, Fox’s bid to take over U.K. media company Sky was dealt a major blow when the British government said that regulators would need to take a closer look at the deal before it could go forward. In a separate but related report, British media regulator Ofcom said, “We have received a number of submissions asserting that conduct at Fox News would render Sky unfit to hold a broadcast license in the event of a merger,” adding, “The allegations that have been put to us about sexual harassment at Fox News are of an extremely serious and disturbing nature.”
Horowitz, a former ESPN executive, joined Fox Sports in 2015 to lead Fox Sports 1 and Fox Sports 2. He arrived at Fox Sports fresh off a tumultuous tenure at NBC News that lasted only two months. Joining NBC News in September, 2014 to revitalize then-struggling morning show “Today,” Horowitz was then fired that November. Horowitz reportedly clashed with then-NBC News president Deborah Turness, who declared in a memo that Horowitz was “not the right fit.”
During his time at ESPN, Horowitz built a reputation for developing provocative sports programs. There he oversaw budgets and production for shows such as “Olbermann,” “SportsNation” and “Colin’s New Football Show.” Horwitz carried that approach over to Fox Sports, where he has recruited veteran ESPN opinion-show hosts such as Skip Bayless, Colin Cowherd, and Jason Whitlock.
Read the full text of Shanks’ memo below:
I regret to inform you that Jamie Horowitz, President of National Networks for Fox Sports, will be leaving FOX Sports effective immediately. We realize this news may come as a surprise for many of you, but we are confident in this decision.
Everyone at FOX Sports, no matter what role we play, or what business, function or show we contribute to — should act with respect and adhere to professional conduct at all times. These values are non-negotiable.
Until Jamie’s replacement is named, I am stepping in to handle his former responsibilities including programming, marketing and scheduling for FS1 and FS2, as well as digital. All these functions will now report directly to me.
We understand how difficult this will be for many of you, but in these times it is important that we remain unwavering and focused in continuing the great work of FOX Sports.