Gretchen Carlson Declares Victory Over Roger Ailes: "Courage Caused a Seismic Shift"

Although the network could end up footing Ailes' legal bills.
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Gretchen Carlson, Roger Ailes

Gretchen Carlson's legal team is declaring victory now that Roger Ailes has resigned as chairman and CEO of Fox News, following her lawsuit alleging that he repeatedly sexually harassed her.

Carlson's lawyers issued a statement Thursday afternoon in response to Ailes' exit: "Within just two weeks of her filing a lawsuit against Roger Ailes, Gretchen Carlson's extraordinary courage has caused a seismic shift in the media world. We hope that all businesses now understand that women will no longer tolerate sexual harassment and reputable companies will no longer shield those who abuse women. We thank all the brave women who spoke out about this issue. We will have more to say in coming days as events unfold."

Ailes and the network he founded appear to have parted amicably, with the longtime news guru staying on as an adviser to Rupert Murdoch, who will be stepping into Ailes' former role.

Employment litigators say it's common for executives to depart prior to the conclusion of an investigation, and an exit is not necessarily an admission of guilt.

If a leaked draft term sheet that made the rounds earlier this week is accurate, which the latest reported $40 million buyout reports suggest, the network decided to indemnify Ailes from any claims against the network and him. That means the company would foot his legal bills and pay any damages — even if Carlson never names Fox News in her suit.

So far the network itself has not been sued, despite reports that more than a dozen women have contacted Carlson's legal team with similar stories. Attorney Nancy Erika Smith told The Hollywood Reporter that her client had no reason to believe "Fox News authorized Mr. Ailes to behave this way or condoned it in anyway" and, unless she learned otherwise, the network isn't a target.

Prominent anchor Megyn Kelly reportedly told investigators that she was harassed by Ailes in her early days as a correspondent, but that doesn't mean she reported it back then or that the network was aware of it.

Other implications for Carlson's lawsuit remain to be seen, and the biggest unknown factor is the internal investigators' report. If it shows conclusively that Ailes harassed Carlson, that would bolster her damages claim or, more likely, a settlement. If it doesn't contain conclusive proof, Carlson's attorneys would face a steep uphill battle.

Carlson has said she filed the suit to stand up for herself and for other women who may have experienced similar harassment, so Ailes losing his position of power at the network may be enough for her to walk away.

In his resignation letter, obtained by the Drudge Report, Ailes tells Murdoch he doesn't want his presence to be a distraction from the work being done at a business he spent two decades building. Ailes doesn't address Carlson's accusations directly, instead opting to focus on unnamed women with whom he had positive relationships.

"I take particular pride in the role that I have played advancing the careers of the many women I have promoted to executive and on-air positions," he writes. "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."

Read the full letter from Ailes to Murdoch below.

Dear Rupert, 

With your support, I am proud that we have built Fox News and Fox Business Channels into powerful and lucrative news organizations that inform our audience and reward our shareholders. I take particular pride in the role that I have played 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. Fox News has become Number 1 in all of cable because I consistently identified and promoted the most talented men and women in television, and they performed at the highest levels. 

Having spent 20 years building this historic business, I will not allow my presence to become a distraction from the work that must be done every day to ensure that Fox News and Fox Business continue to lead our industry. I am confident that everyone at Fox News and Fox Business will continue as the standard setters that they are, and that the businesses are well positioned for even greater success in the future. 

I am proud of our accomplishments and look forward to continuing to work with you as an adviser in building 21st Century Fox.

All the best, 

Roger. 

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