Friedman is set to meet tomorrow with Fox News chief Roger Ailes and John Moody, the news network's executive vice president for editorial, the source said. Friedman will have a chance to plead his case, but the meeting could well end with the columnist losing his job.
Friedman is in hot water for posting to FoxNews.com Thursday a review of the forthcoming movie Wolverine. The freelance columnist based his comments on an unfinished version of the movie that leaked onto the internet last week. "It's so much easier than going out in the rain!" he wrote. "I was completely riveted to my desk chair in front of my computer."
You can imagine how this went over at Wolverine producer 20th Century Fox, which last week called in the FBI to find out who leaked the film. The studio complained corporate sibling Fox News, according to Nikki Finke, and parent company News Corp. publicly condemned the review and requested its removal. Fox News promptly deleted the piece.
But Fox News' only statement on the affair (also given to the Times) is that "This is an internal matter that we aren't prepared to discuss at this time."
And in fact Friedman has not been fired, according to the Fox News source, although he could well be terminated during tomorrow's meeting. The delay in firing Friedman (despite News Corp.'s announcement) could be read as a play by Ailes to assert the news division's independence from film studio 20th within the News Corp. empire.
The meeting also gives Fox News time to reconcile its own definition of journalistic ethics with 20th Century Fox's. The film studio says Friedman shouldn't have broken the law in the service of a story. But Fox News seems more comfortable with such mischief. Network anchor Shep Smith wasn't fired after he was arrested for running over a competing reporter with his car so he could snag parking space, even though the incident resulted in felony battery charges (later apparently dropped without explanation).
When Bill O'Reilly's former producer accused the Fox News host of sexual harassment, producing lengthy conversation transcripts O'Reilly never denied, sibling publication the New York Post slammed her in a story headlined "'Lunatic' O'Reilly Gal Went Nuts in Bar." O'Reilly settled the suit and, of course, retains his job.