3:51pm PT by Ashley Cullins
Roger Ailes Fires Back at Gretchen Carlson's "Defamatory" Lawsuit as Fox Launches Internal Investigation
Roger Ailes is firing back at a lawsuit from ex-Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson that accuses him of sexual harassment and retaliation at the same time the network's parent company has announced an internal investigation into the matter.
Carlson, in a suit filed Wednesday in New Jersey Superior Court, claims she was fired from the cable news network for rebuffing Ailes' sexual advances and complaining about pervasive harassment in the workplace.
The Fox News chairman issued this statement in response to the lawsuit Wednesday afternoon:
"Gretchen Carlson's allegations are false. This is a retaliatory suit for the network's decision not to renew her contract, which was due to the fact that her disappointingly low ratings were dragging down the afternoon lineup. When Fox News did not commence any negotiations to renew her contract, Ms. Carlson became aware that her career with the network was likely over and conveniently began to pursue a lawsuit. Ironically, Fox News provided her with more on-air opportunities over her 11-year tenure than any other employer in the industry, for which she thanked me in her recent book. This defamatory lawsuit is not only offensive, it is wholly without merit and will be defended vigorously."
Meanwhile, Fox News parent 21st Century Fox announced Wednesday it is looking into the allegations against Ailes and Carlson's former Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy. (Doocy is not a defendant in the suit but Carlson claims she suffered pervasive harassment by him.)
"The company has seen the allegations against Mr. Ailes and Mr. Doocy," 21st Century Fox said in a statement. "We take these matters seriously. While we have full confidence in Mr. Ailes and Mr. Doocy, who have served the company brilliantly for over two decades, we have commenced an internal review of the matter."
In a brief response to Ailes' comments, Carlson's attorney Nancy Erika Smith asked The Hollywood Reporter: “Does Ailes deny saying the statements in the complaint?”
That remains to be seen, and will surely be addressed if and when Ailes files a response to the suit.
Earlier Wednesday, Smith indicated that Carlson did not assume Fox condoned Ailes' alleged actions but, if in the near future she learned otherwise, her legal team would "definitely" consider its options.
July 6, 4:24 p.m. Updated with a statement from Carlson's attorney.