Roger Friedman, a showbiz columnist for FoxNews.com, failed to persuade Fox News head Roger Ailes that he should keep his job after downloading a pirated copy of Wolverine and angering 20th Century Fox studio executives.
As Fox called in the FBI to find out who had leaked the film onto the Internet, Friedman posted a column last Thursday marveling at how easy it was to find a copy of the purloined Hugh Jackman comic book film online. The column was quickly removed and over the weekend, reports emerged that he had been fired. News Corp.'s corporate P.R. even released a statement on Sunday saying that the columnist was toast.
But that was a bit premature, and Ailes gave Friedman the chance to come in and tell him and Fox News executive vice president John Moody why he shouldn't be fired. That meeting was supposed to take place this morning, but got pushed back to the afternoon.
Why go through all the bother? Our guess is that, as ridiculous as it might sound, corporate politics were to blame. Power at News Corp. is in flux now that Ruper Murdoch's deputy Peter Chernin has announced his exit. And some of the big winners in the corporate restructurings so far have been the heads of the Fox movie studio, Tom Rothman and Jim Gianopoulos. No matter how inevitable Friedman's exit may have been, it wouldn't be surprising if Ailes bristled at the idea of movie studio people making hiring-and-firing decisions in his cable news outfit.
So, Friedman got his day in kangaroo court. And lost. Here's the official statement from Fox News:
Fox News representatives and Roger Friedman met today and mutually agreed to part ways immediately. Fox News appreciates Mr. Friedman's ten years of contributions to building foxnews.com and wishes him success in his future endeavors. Mr. Friedman is grateful to his colleagues for their friendship and support over the past decade.
Update: Friedman asks that we clarify one thing: He did not not download Wolverine per se. He explains:
I did not download anything. I found Wolverine on the internet by accident on Wednesday night. I was looking for something else—info on another movie, which had a link to this site. I simply pressed "play" and when I realized it really was Wolverine, I skipped watching Lost and watched this instead. Afterwards I discovered that the Times had written about it earlier that evening. I guess what I did was called streaming. But there was no downloading. I am fervently anti-piracy, have written extensively about this, and spent too much money at amazon's mp3 site. Please let's clear up this misconception.