Roger Ailes Harassment Probe Update: Can Fox News' CFO Ouster Limit Damage?
Rupert Murdoch continues to run the 8 a.m. news meeting and aims to stabilize the network with veteran promotions as new revelations from Fox’s internal investigation come to light.
The Aug. 13 ouster of longtime Fox News CFO Mark Kranz signals Rupert Murdoch is trying to limit the damage to the network as an investigation into the conduct of former CEO Roger Ailes continues. Kranz came under scrutiny when a former booker, Laurie Luhn, revealed she received a settlement of $3.15 million in 2011 after she complained of sexual harassment by Ailes. And sources tell THR the payment to Luhn is not the only settlement that has come to light in the course of an internal investigation launched in the wake of the harassment lawsuit filed by ousted anchor Gretchen Carlson.
As CFO, Kranz — a 19-year veteran of Fox News — would have approved the payments. (Fox News general counsel Dianne Brandi, who is said to have negotiated settlements, is staying.) At the same time, the elevation of Bill Shine and Jack Abernethy to co-presidents of Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network signals to a news unit rocked by Ailes' ignominious exit that Murdoch is prioritizing stability. Shine, 53, who was for years a loyal No. 2 to Ailes, joined the network at its inception as a producer on Hannity & Colmes. Abernethy, 60, also joined Fox News in 1996 before being tapped to run the company's owned and operated stations. (Shine's No. 2, Suzanne Scott, is the new executive vp programming.) But the 85-year-old Murdoch remains in charge — he continues to run the 8 a.m. editorial meetings — until a permanent CEO is named.
Already Murdoch quietly has purged several consultants — the "goon squad," as one source called them — employed by Ailes for vague and possibly nefarious purposes, such as investigating journalists deemed hostile to Fox News. Meanwhile, the investigation, commissioned by 21st Century Fox on July 6 and being conducted by law firm Paul Weiss, is open-ended, says a source with knowledge of the inquiry, since the company does not want to discourage women from coming forward. Even as it has broadened to determine if Fox News execs may have enabled Ailes' behavior, Murdoch has sought to reassure the troops, noting in the announcement Shine will run programming "throughout the current election season, including election night."
This story first appeared in the Aug. 26 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.