Roger Ailes Exit Talks Stall Over Him Acknowledging Responsibility


CNN’s Media guru Brian Stelter filled his daily newsletter with what is known about the Ailes’ exit negotiations:

Ailes on the way out
“I don’t see how Roger can survive this.” That’s not me talking, that’s one of Roger Ailes‘ deputies. The exec said it with sadness in his voice. Others in the TV industry are in shock. And some of Ailes’ critics are downright jubilant.

Here’s what we know: 

Ailes is in advanced talks to exit Fox News
— His last day might be Friday
He remains in charge as of tonight
— Source says he’ll be back at work Wednesday
— He denies ever sexually harassing Megyn Kelly
— Kelly is cooperating with investigators but not commenting
— Fox staffers are in the dark about what’s going on
— Murdoch’s NYPost says the “end is near” for Ailes
— One draft of the deal includes a $40 million payout
— He may have a consulting role through 2017

Here’s what we don’t know: 

— The sticking points in the negotiations
— How the Murdochs want this to go
— If there is any way for Ailes to hang on
— Who is going to replace him
What, if anything, he is planning to do next
— Whether any of Fox’s loyal stars will leave with him

“No agreement” yet 
Tonight Ailes’ attorney Susan Estrich confirmed to Dylan Byers that “there’s lots of cross-talk, but no agreement has been reached.” She said, “When there is an agreement, if there is an agreement, 21st Century Fox will make an announcement.”

As of the time I’m hitting “send,” 11:45pm ET, Fox has nothing to announce…

What’s the sticking point? 
The Murdochs want to get this over with. But could Ailes drag it out for a while? Estrich told Dylan, “Rupert comes to town next week — for now there’s no deal in place and no terms have been agreed to.” Rupert comes to town next week…

Gabriel Sherman, who has led the way on this story, tweets: “Right now negotiations have broken down over language in press release. 21CF wants Ailes to ‘accept responsibility for errors in judgement.’” But that sort of statement could expose Ailes to significant legal liability…

Not subtle…
Murdoch’s NYPost — which ignored Gretchen Carlson‘s lawsuit against Ailes two weeks ago — placed the story on Wednesday’s front page. While the editors picked a decent photo of Ailes, they say he’s out…
Here’s the story by Claire Atkinson
Big picture perspective:
Dylan emails: “It is impossible to overstate how significant a moment this is for Fox News, the Republican party and American political culture. No one can fill Roger Ailes’ shoes. He’s a singular figure in the history of American politics and media.”
Shock, sadness, and more
A Fox insider texts: “Roger is revered here… There’s a reason so many of us have stayed here for so long… I can’t even begin to explain how people feel…

Conversely, some of the women who believe Ailes acted inappropriately around them are relieved to see the Murdochs taking this apparent action…

Fox AFTER Ailes
In time, Ailes’ departure “threatens to upend the the status quo at the nation’s dominant cable news channel,” Dylan writes. Ailes has no heir apparent. So will the Murdochs bring in someone from Sky? Or promote Bill Shine to run the network? Or woo David Rhodes back to the network? Read Dylan’s full story here…
So here’s what happened today…
9am: Ailes joined Fox’s usual morning editorial call. He made no mention of Monday’s reports that his future at Fox was up in the air.

12pm: Sherman reported that Kelly had been interviewed by the law firm conducting the internal review… And that she said she was harassed by Ailes… And that she described it “in detail” to the investigators. He also reported that 21st Century Fox had given Ailes “a deadline of August 1 to resign or face being fired for cause.”

1… 2pm: Kelly did not respond to requests for comment.

2:30pm: Ailes skipped Fox’s usual afternoon editorial call, which is not unusual, but was noticed by his lieutenants…

3… 4pm: Kelly still did not respond to requests for comment.

4:15pm: The Drudge Report put up a siren and said Ailes was leaving Fox. Minutes later, Matt Drudge tweeted what appeared to be a unsigned separation agreement. But then he just as suddenly deleted the image and took down the claim that Ailes was out.

4:20 til 4:50pm: Several news outlets report that Ailes is out, then had to walk it back. NYT’s Sydney Ember has a tick-tock here…

4:55pm: 21st Century Fox said “Roger is at work” and no separation agreement had been signed. Sources confirmed that exit talks were continuing.

11:45pm: No further comment from the Murdoch side or the Ailes side.

What Kelly is saying now 
Kelly is the key. “MEGYN TWISTS THE KNIFE: AILES HARASSED ME!” was the Drudge headline for a while this afternoon. According to tonight’s NYT, which cites two sources, Kelly “told investigators that Mr. Ailes had made advances toward her multiple times in the past.”

Kelly’s lawyer confirmed her involvement, saying, “she has cooperated with the inquiry fully and truthfully.” He said she will not make any public comment “while the review is pending,” which could be a while.

She arrived at the convention arena around 8:15pm with a “phalanx of aides/security types,” maybe about ten of them, per CNN’s Theodore Schleifer

Ailes denies harassing Kelly
Estrich issued a statement this afternoon saying that Ailes “never sexually harassed” her. “In fact, he has spent much of the last decade promoting and helping her to achieve the stardom she earned, for which she has repeatedly and publicly thanked him…”

(Sounds irreparable to me.)

What about Ailes’ defenders?
What about all the Fox stars who spoke out in support of Ailes? What will they say now? What will they DO now? Only one made a peep today — Geraldo Rivera — who tweeted, “Don’t believe the crap about” Ailes. “Only ones talking dirt are those who hate #FoxNews & want to hurt network that’s kicking their ass.”

I can assure you, Geraldo, that some of my sources LOVE and admire Fox News…

Will any hosts follow Ailes out the door?
Two sources confirmed to me what the FT reported this afternoon: that Bill O’Reilly and several other Fox stars have a contractual back door that allows them to leave if Ailes leaves. Will any of them consider walking out? Drudge and Breitbart say yes. “They are considering leaving with Roger Ailes to form a new network to compete with Fox,” Matthew Boyle writes.

Others view this as a last gasp by Ailes, though. I reached one of the allegedly rebellious hosts, and they denied that anything untoward is happening…

 — More: “Though 21st Century Fox executives are aware of those clauses, they are prepared to take on that risk,” the NYT says…

Gabe Sherman was right 
A tip of the hat to Ailes biographer Gabriel Sherman, who was way out front on this story. It was a lonely place to be. Fox types vIew Sherman as a nuisance at best, a sworn enemy at worst. But he warned them — and the rest of us — about what was coming. His back to back stories amount to the biggest scoop of his career.

I wonder: Is there a sequel for Sherman to write?

“Waiving” the non-disparagement clauses
I reported yesterday that several former Fox staffers had their own stories to tell about Ailes, but were reluctant to do so publicly, citing restrictive non-disparagement clauses in their separation agreements. Sherman reported today that 21st Century Fox is “waiving” those clauses, thereby allowing the women to speak to the lawyers conducting the review. One of the former staffers asked me how to get in touch with the law firm after reading Sherman’s story…
Beck compares Ailes to Cosby
Glenn Beck — who left Fox in 2011 and has a complicated past with Ailes — posted this on Facebook about his old boss: “He was very concerned about how he would be remembered. He wanted to be remembered as a good man. This has destroyed that. Truly unfortunate as he is responsible for so many great moments in history. Instead, he has become Bill Cosby. Gretchen Carlson should be commended for having the courage to stand…”
What Gretchen is saying
After Sherman reported that Kelly told investigators about being harassed, but before Drudge said Ailes was on the way out, Carlson tweeted a new video and said, “We must not be silenced.” Later, she retweeted a supporter who noted Ailes’ possible $40 million payday. That’s “no deterrence for sexual harassment,” Christina Davidson wrote. “And his victim @GretchenCarlson is still jobless.”
Awaiting Michael Wolff’s take…
This time last week, he chastised the “breathless media” trying to “kill” Ailes and suggested he knew better. He hasn’t weighed in yet today…
Top tweets
 — Josh Marshall: “Gretchen Carlson, Ailes Slayer. Amazing. Took less than 2 weeks for him to be gone. 1 woman stood up. How many were bullied into submission?”
James Poniewozik: “Ailes — who ran Nixon’s ’68 TV campaign — on the way out as current GOP nom openly tries to run 1968 Nixon playbook.”
Lucas Shaw: “Come fall, Donald Trump will be the republican nominee for president and Roger Ailes will be out of a job.”
Jeff Bercovici: “Hot take: If we’d known $40 million was the amount required to get rid of Ailes, that @gofundme would’ve maxed out in 20 minutes.”


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