About that News Corp. Letter from Judith Regan…

I had touched on this subject earlier today on Twitter but now that I’m home I can expand on my thesis in more detail…

There was something odd about the New York Times story on the revelation of the alleged un-named executive in the allegations made by Judith Regan’s lawsuit against News Corp. being Roger Ailes: the existence of a letter from Regan in News Corp.’s possession stating that Ailes did not intend to influence Regan.

In a statement released on Wednesday, a News Corporation spokeswoman did not deny that Mr. Ailes was the executive on the recording. But the spokeswoman, Teri Everett, said News Corporation had a letter from Ms. Regan “stating that Mr. Ailes did not intend to influence her with respect to a government investigation.” Ms. Everett added, “The matter is closed.”

Ms. Everett declined to release the letter, and Ms. Regan’s lawyer, Robert E. Brown, said the News Corporation’s description of the letter did not represent Ms. Regan’s complete statement.

What makes this odd is not that the letter may or may not rebut or undercut Regan’s original allegation (we haven’t heard the tape nor seen the letter so there’s no way to know for sure one way or another whether the tape proves the allegation or whether the letter convincingly negates the allegation) but the fact that the letter even exists and is in News Corp.’s possession.

I have no doubt that this letter exists, which by extrapolation means that a tape recording of some sort also exists. The question is why does this letter exist? Let’s consider the significance of its existence. Why would Regan write such a declaratory letter? Surely it wasn’t written before Regan was fired from News Corp. There would be no reason for Regan to write such a letter stating what the letter purports to state. Would you volunteer on your own, at your own instigation, a letter stating a fact that counters…nothing…since there’s no allegation to the contrary out there in the public domain? Of course you wouldn’t. There would be no need.

The only plausible reason she would write such a letter that I can see, either on her own unilaterally or otherwise, would be to counter an allegation that already existed. So this letter had to have been written after Regan instituted legal action against News Corp.

Now why would she do such a thing? From a legal standpoint it makes no sense to write a letter that undercuts her own legal position while the case is ongoing. Ergo, the letter had to have been written as part of the settlement. News Corp publicly retracts its allegation that Regan made an anti-Semitic remark to HarperCollins Lawyer Mark H. Jackson and pays out $10.75 million to Regan and Regan in turn writes a letter saying Ailes “did not intend to influence her with respect to a government investigation”. That’s one theory.

An alternate theory would be this: Would News Corp. insist on such a letter while she was still on their payroll? Possibly, but only if Regan was making internal complaints and things came to a head or if it was part of a severance package agreement. But if it was part of either of those scenarios, the next question would be why, if News Corp. nailed Regan down with a letter stating what it purports to state, would the organization also not nail her down so that she couldn’t respond legally as she did later on without getting counter-sued for breach and losing? The fact that she did sue later on undercuts this whole premise that News Corp. could have succeeded or did succeed in compelling Regan to write such a letter prior to or as a result of her termination. Which for me tends to make the theory that this was written as part of the settlement the only viable theory.

So if the letter was written as part of a settlement it had to have gone through an army of lawyers on both sides before being signed. One imagines that the News Corp. spokeswoman’s statement also went through lawyers before being given to The Times…which means the wording of the statement was not haphazardly chosen, but chosen deliberately.

The reason I bring this up is because the statement itself is worded a specific way. Here’s the part of the statement that is worded in an interesting manner (the emphasis is ICN’s)

But the spokeswoman, Teri Everett, said News Corporation had a letter from Ms. Regan “stating that Mr. Ailes did not intend to influence her with respect to a government investigation.”

“did not intend to influence”…not “did not influence” The change in verbiage is subtle but the difference in meaning from a legal standpoint is probably not insignificant. The latter is a flat out denial under any circumstances. The former leaves room to maneuver. Unfortunately that’s as far as I can go here without access to the tape or the letter. Only with access to both can one properly ascertain what happened in the conversation and what that letter specifically addresses. But I don’t believe the presence of the word “intend” was added for no reason.

Update: I should add that we will likely never know the full story. The only reason this story came out was due to a clerical error by the court which exposed key documents to the public domain that otherwise would have been sealed. In other words, the revelations in The Times article were never supposed to be revealed. Everything else – the alleged tape, the letter – are probably hidden forever behind a legal firewall and if they were revealed legal proceedings would likely ensue.

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2 Responses to “About that News Corp. Letter from Judith Regan…”

  1. Spud, here’s an older NYT story about the same lawsuit – interesting stuff:
    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/03/business/media/03carr.html

  2. […] people would care about but we wonks care about. And for us Sherman delivers by confirming what I first speculated upon years ago: that the letter News Corp. said it had from Regan was a result of the settlement deal between the […]

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