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Roger Ailes Resigns From Fox News Amid Sexual Harassment Allegations


The chairman of Fox News, Roger Ailes, is out. Parent company 21st Century Fox says Ailes has resigned, effective immediately. Ailes has been a powerful force at the network for years. But everything started to unravel earlier this month. A former Fox News anchor, Gretchen Carlson, sued Ailes for sexual harassment. Things got progressively worse for Ailes after that.

NPR's David Folkenflik has covered Fox News for years. He joins us now. And David, what more do we know about the terms of Ailes' departure?

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: Well, the statement from Rupert Murdoch, the controlling owner of 21st Century Fox, the parent company, and his sons Lachlan and James, do not allude to what these specific terms are. But I can tell you that the Murdochs are ensuring that Ailes is being paid tens of millions of dollars, despite the scandal, to ensure that he does not compete against the Murdochs and Fox News, does not share secrets elsewhere, does not reveal their secrets and also will serve as a kind of personal advisor to Murdoch during the transition.

Murdoch will be the acting CEO and chairman of Fox News in the time to come, even though he's technically not being considered as consultant for the corporation.

CORNISH: Considering his stature, this has moved very quickly. Can you recap the chain of events that led up to this?

FOLKENFLIK: Sure. Earlier this month, Gretchen Carlson, former host at Fox News of a couple of shows, files a lawsuit saying that he made unwanted sexual advances. And he connected them with her career advancement and status at the station. She says she had complained about sexism. He made these advances. And ultimately, that's why he let her contract lapse last month.

Well, women started coming forward - I must say, Roger Ailes has denied all of these allegations. But women started coming forward with their stories of his advances over the years. I've talked to a woman who has worked for Fox News in recent years, who told NPR that, you know, he had made unwanted sexual advances to her as well.

And Megyn Kelly - really, this is the blow that felled the sequoia. Megyn Kelly has not only cooperated with investigators hired by the parent company 21st Century Fox, but she said that she too, a decade ago when she was a young reporter in Fox News' Washington bureau, had received unwanted sexual advances from Ailes. And I think that knocked out any standing Ailes had left.

She's really the most visible female figure on the network. She's, you know, one of their most popular figures in prime time. And also, she's really the face of the future, the person who's supposed to bridge the gap between the longtime loyal Fox viewers and people who may join the channel to watch in the future.

CORNISH: How much of a shock if this, especially considering his reach in politics?

FOLKENFLIK: You know, I mean, it's incredible like a meteor strike. It was inconceivable, but it quickly became inevitable for the reasons we've talked a bit about. But if you think about Roger Ailes, there's almost no one over the past five decades plus in American society who's had more influence on media and also on politics.

He helped advise Richard Nixon in 1968, Ronald Reagan in '84, was vital to Vice President George H. W. Bush's election fortunes in 1988 and toggled between media and politics, was really involved in bringing CNBC to become what we think of it today before joining Rupert Murdoch in 1996 to launch Fox News.

CORNISH: And Rupert Murdoch is apparently taking over for Ailes in the interim. What's that going to look like?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, I think he's trying right now even as we speak to calm the forces, to stay the course, to let them know that they're going to continue and be strong performers. But if you think about the culture that Roger Ailes established from the outset, it was one bound in fun, in loyalty and also in paranoia.

And those strands, at least those last two elements, have been unraveled - they've been unmoored from the founding force, Roger Ailes.

CORNISH: That's NPR's David Folkenflik in New York. David, thank you.

FOLKENFLIK: You bet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

David Folkenflik was described by Geraldo Rivera of Fox News as "a really weak-kneed, backstabbing, sweaty-palmed reporter." Others have been kinder. The Columbia Journalism Review, for example, once gave him a "laurel" for reporting that immediately led the U.S. military to institute safety measures for journalists in Baghdad.