July 21, 2016

Roger Ailes, the media titan who founded and built Fox News into a ratings powerhouse, has left the network after a 20-year tenure.

21st Century Fox announced his departure in a glowing statement that made no mention of the sexual harassment scandal that has engulfed the embattled Fox News chairman in recent days. Rupert Murdoch, the company patriarch, praised his run at the top of Fox News in the release.

Roger Ailes has made a remarkable contribution to our company and our country. Roger shared my vision of a great and independent television organization and executed it brilliantly over 20 great years.

Murdoch will become chairman and acting CEO of Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network, according to the statement. As part of his separation agreement, Ailes will be given about $40 million and be prohibited from starting up a competing news organization, according to The New York Times.

Thursday afternoon, The Drudge Report posted a letter addressed to Rupert Murdoch ostensibly from Ailes in which the departing network head credited himself for “advancing the careers of the many women I have promoted to executive and on-air positions.”

Many of these talented journalists have deservedly become household names known for their intelligence and strength, whether reporting the news, fair and balanced, and offering exciting opinions on our opinion programs.

In recent days, several women have come forward and accused Ailes of harassment, alleging he used the prospect of career advancement as leverage for unwanted sexual advances.

Gretchen Carlson, a former host at Fox News, began a series of events that precipitated Ailes’ resignation earlier this month when she filed a sexual harassment lawsuit in early July. Since then, lawyers for Carlson say, 20 women have come forward with their own stories of harassment by Ailes.

In a statement issued Thursday, Carlson’s lawyers said their client’s “extraordinary courage” led to “a seismic shift in the media world.”

In the days after Carlson announced her lawsuit, several of the network’s biggest stars came forward to support Ailes, but there was at least one notable exception: Megyn Kelly, who reportedly told investigators for 21st Century Fox that the network head harassed her when she was a young correspondent in Washington.

That may have been the last straw for the Murdochs. Kelly, who has been profiled extensively and hailed as the future of the network, has a contract that is set to expire next year and could be hired away if she became dissatisfied at Fox.

As the public pressure surrounding Ailes built over the last week, journalists tried to imagine a way forward for the network without its founder, who is synonymous with the Fox News brand. Many, including New York Times media columnist Jim Rutenberg and Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan, viewed Ailes’ ouster as representative of a generational shift at the network that would see Murdoch’s sons, Lachlan and James, usher in a new regime.

Shortly after Ailes’ departure was announced, several Fox News personalities told POLITICO’s Hadas Gold that they were disappointed by the news:

The future of Fox News is still very much in question, as some of its stars have clauses that give them the option to leave with Ailes. Per CNN, there have been conflicting reports about whether they plan to exercise that opportunity:

There are conflicting reports about whether a talent “walkout” is possible in the wake of Ailes’ departure. Fox’s biggest stars, like Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity, have something called a “key man clause” in their contracts, allowing them to leave the network if a key executive, in this case Ailes, leaves.

One of the allegedly rebellious hosts told CNNMoney on Wednesday that, contrary to a report on Breitbart News, there is no organized exodus in the works.

Correction: A previous version of this story made reference to “20th Century Fox.” We are, of course, in the 21st century, and so is Fox. We regret the error.

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Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of Poynter.org. He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism…
Benjamin Mullin

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