Leverage…

Well, we shouldn’t be too surprised to find that Brian Lewis has hired powerhouse lawyer Judd Burstein. As TVNewser’s Chris Ariens pointed out earlier today, Lewis started out taking the high road publicly. But after a series of increasingly larger negative leaks on Lewis by elements of FNC, the high road was apparently no longer a viable option.

We already knew from Bill Carter’s reporting that exit agreement negotiations were still going on between FNC and Lewis so presumably lawyers were already involved on Lewis’ behalf. So why turn up the heat by hiring Burstein?

A clue can be found in the statement Burstein sent to Gawker today…

I have just been retained and am still plotting our course of action. But two things are very clear to me. First, Brian Lewis no longer has any confidentiality obligation to Newscorp or Roger Ailes because of the false and malicious statements made by Fox to date. Second, Roger Ailes and Newscorp have a lot more to fear from Brian Lewis telling the truth about them than Brian Lewis has to fear from Roger Ailes and his toadies telling lies about Brian Lewis.

This statement reveals two things…an attempt at damage control after a week of FNC based leaks on Lewis…and a classic attempt to leverage a better exit deal for Lewis. Given that Lewis was let go last month, that the negotiations have dragged on this long suggests that Lewis wasn’t happy with the terms being offered.

Thus the not so veiled, albeit totally vacant, threat that Lewis can talk about all kinds of things FNC would rather have him not talk about. It’s totally vacant because it’s not a threat one makes publicly if the intent is to go public and reveal all kinds of FNC dirt. If you want to shovel dirt…you shovel it…you don’t puff your chest about the possibility of shoveling it. You only puff your chest as a negotiating tactic.

What we’re seeing here is no different from the veiled, and just as vacant, threats Judith Regan made about a senior executive (which later was revealed to allegedly be Roger Ailes) in her lawsuit with News Corp. It was a negotiating tactic that nobody thought would ever get to trial and it didn’t.

I view Burstein’s statement the same way. This is a negotiating tactic aimed at getting the best possible deal for Lewis. FNC has no desire to see Lewis talking and I doubt Lewis has any desire to talk. It’s a high stakes poker game in the legal arena. Eventually both sides will come to an agreement and this threat, like Regan’s, will never result in those of us who yearn for dirt being spilled to get what we want.

But there is a wildcard in play here. That wildcard is just how strongly Roger Ailes feels Lewis talked extensively with Gabriel Sherman for his upcoming book. There’s no proof this has happened but Ailes apparently thinks it has. If Ailes has got it in his head that Lewis already spilled considerable dirt to Sherman, that would make Ailes reluctant to sign too big a check in exchange for Lewis’ legally binding silence. The reason this would be the case is because if Lewis had spilled considerable dirt to Sherman already then the need to legally silence Lewis drops considerably because the cat is already out of the bag so a large check would be pointless at that point.

7 Responses to “Leverage…”

  1. Why does Lewis have to say anything directly; and break any confidentiality agreement he has with FNC; when he can just be an anonymous source for Sherman’s book. the more FNC whines about Lewis the more books Sherman sells.

  2. I guess the question that needs to be asked is does Lewis really want to stick it to Ailes/FNC or does he want another job in the industry? If he leaks too much no one else is going to offer him employment because they have already seen how he works when things don’t go his way.

  3. I’m not sure Lewis is employable in the industry at this point. FNC’s leaks have essentially seen to that.

  4. Pam: If he has skills people want then he’ll get work in the industry. If people think he doesn’t have these then he won’t. I give you Keith Olbermann has an example of how it works; but there are lots of others.

  5. Nixon - niila niihpikiiookani Says:

    Pam: If he has skills people want then he’ll get work in the industry. If people think he doesn’t have these then he won’t. I give you Keith Olbermann has an example of how it works; but there are lots of others.

    The Olbermann case is much different. Olbermann was an on-air personality that, at least initially, will draw viewers, if for no other reason than curiosity.

    Lewis is a front office type, if you will. Management. An employer is less likely to hire someone that has a history of leaving under less than favorable conditions at his previous employer. There is no upside, unlike Olbermann.

  6. I think Lewis is quite likely to get hired eventually; maybe even quickly. He left FNC after a personal spat with Ailes. If another network thinks he has job skills to help their network they will hire him in a heartbeat.

    Don’t forget he was a big part of making FNC a ratings success. He was there from the start.The trash talk put out by anonymous sources and talent at Fox News; that he has an ego (Wow!), was lazy, not important etc.; is just that, trash talk meant to destroy his reputation.

    Someone will hire him just as CNN hired Jeff Zucker.

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