News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch and his two large adult sons, James and Lachlan, have decided that Roger Ailes must be dethroned from their company’s most consistent cash cow. Almost exactly one week after former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson hit CEO Roger Ailes with a sexual harassment lawsuit, Gabriel Sherman of New York magazine reports that the Murdochs arrived at their decision after “reviewing the initial findings of the [internal] probe” into Carlson’s allegations:
Rupert Murdoch and sons Lachlan and James ... have settled on removing the 76-year-old executive, say two sources briefed on a sexual harassment investigation of Ailes being conducted by New York law firm Paul, Weiss. After reviewing the initial findings of the probe, James Murdoch is said to be arguing that Ailes should be presented with a choice this week to resign or face being fired. Lachlan is more aligned with their father, who thinks that no action should be taken until after the GOP convention this week. Another source confirms that all three are in agreement that Ailes needs to go.
Among the specific allegations presented by Carlson was that Ailes repeatedly propositioned her for sex, ordered her to flaunt her body for his personal viewing pleasure, and bragged about sleeping with other women. At least two women have since gone on the record, using their real names, to discuss similar allegations. One told Sherman last week that, upon meeting Ailes in his office at The Mike Douglas Show in the late Sixties, he told her, “Sit on the sofa and lift your skirt up.” He also allegedly told the woman, a former model named Marsha Callahan, that her future success depended on her willingness to sleep with him: “I recall very clearly, he said he’d put me on the show but I needed to go to bed with him.”
After Carlson filed the lawsuit in New Jersey, Ailes’ lawyers argued that the former host is deliberately attempting to undermine her employment contract’s arbitration clause, which mandates that certain disputes be resolved by an impartial (and confidential) arbitration panel, rather than in the court of law. Notably, Carlson declined to name Fox News or News Corp as co-defendants, a move that could make Ailes’ rebuttal more difficult.
According to CNN legal analyist Dan Cevallos, however, the fact that Carlson excluded her former employer (and its corporate parent) from the lawsuit does not extinguish the risk of entering arbitration. “The courts’ open preference for arbitration, combined with a willingness to include people in arbitration agreements who didn’t sign them, means this case may not stay in any court but be banished to a private proceeding, away from prying eyes,” Cevallos argued in a lengthy essay about the legal machinations of the case.
It’s unclear whether Ailes’ allegedly imminent deposal will affect Carlson’s lawsuit or his own legal strategy. The lawyers conducting the internal probe into the harassment allegations are apparently spooked, though. Citing sources close to the investigation, Sherman notes that interviews with female Fox staffers “are now being conducted at Paul, Weiss’s midtown offices because of concerns that the Fox offices could be bugged.”