Fox Responds to Backlash Over Rupert Murdoch Sexual Harassment Comments

Rupert Murdoch - 2015 TIME 100 Gala - Getty - H 2017
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"Rupert has made it abundantly clear that he understands that there were real problems at Fox News," a statement from a 21st Century Fox spokesperson read in part.

On Thursday, Rupert Murdoch sat down for an interview with Sky News, during which the 21st Century Fox executive chairman talked about the recently unveiled Disney deal and the multiple sexual misconduct claims that have been made against Fox News figures.

When asked by Sky News host Ian King, "How harmful has the whole raft of sexual harassment allegations been for the business?," Murdoch said, "That's all nonsense."

His remarks, including suggesting that former CEO Roger Ailes was the only Fox News figure to face allegations, have received backlash.

In response, 21st Century Fox on Saturday released the following statement from a spokesperson: “Rupert never characterized the sexual harassment matters at Fox News as ‘nonsense.’ Rather, he responded negatively to the suggestion that sexual harassment issues were an obstacle to the company’s bid for the rest of Sky. Under Rupert’s leadership and with his total support, the company exited Roger Ailes, compensated numerous women who were mistreated; trained virtually all of its employees; exited its biggest star; and hired a new head of HR. By his actions, Rupert has made it abundantly clear that he understands that there were real problems at Fox News. Rupert values all of the hard-working colleagues at Fox News, and will continue to address these matters to ensure Fox News maintains its commitment to having a work environment based on the values of trust and respect.”

During the interview, Murdoch said, "We had a problem with our chief executive, sort of, over the years, but isolated incidents. As soon as we investigated, he was out of the place in hours, well, three or four days. And there's been nothing else since then."

In fact, the time period from when former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson sued Ailes for sexual harassment to his resignation — during which time at least seven more women, including then-high-profile host Megyn Kelly, accused Ailes of harassing them — spanned more than two weeks, with Carlson filing her lawsuit on July 6 and Ailes resigning on July 21.

Since then, more 21st Century Fox employees, including former star Bill O'Reilly, have been accused of sexual misconduct. O'Reilly was fired in April after The New York Times revealed that five women who alleged that the host sexually harassed them or engaged in other forms of inappropriate behavior received approximately $13 million in payouts from O'Reilly, Fox News or 21st Century Fox in exchange for agreeing not to pursue litigation or speak about the accusations against him. The Saturday statement seems to reference O'Reilly in stating that "under Rupert's leadership and with his total support, the company...exited its biggest star."

Murdoch also suggested that the claims made against Fox News figures reflected a larger ideological conflict.

"That was largely political, since we're conservative," he said. "Of course, [now] all the liberals are going down the drain. NBC's in deep trouble. CBS, their stars."

As for the 60 men, including disgraced film mogul Harvey Weinstein, who've been accused of sexual misconduct in recent months, Murdoch said, "There are really bad cases, where people should be moved aside, and there are other things, which probably amount to a bit of flirting."

Fox News, it was announced Thursday morning, will not be among the 21st Century Fox assets sold to Disney.