Archive for the FNC Category

Roger Ailes’ “Black Room” Campaign?

Posted in FNC on August 7, 2016 by icn2

New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman writes about Roger Ailes’ alleged “Black Room” operation…

But with Ailes gone, Fox executives are now looking closely at how Ailes spent Fox money. And what they are discovering is that, beyond the sexual harassment claims, Ailes was also able to use portions of the Fox budget to hire consultants, political operatives, and private detectives that reported only to him, according to a senior Fox source. Last week, according to the source, Fox News dismissed five consultants whom Ailes had hired to do work that was more about advancing his own agenda than Fox’s. One of the consultants, Bert Solivan, ran negative PR campaigns against Ailes’s personal and political enemies out of Fox News headquarters, a source said. A Fox News spokesperson confirmed: “Solivan was recently informed that his services were no longer needed.” Solivan, who had previously worked for Fox News as a general manager of the channel’s website, did not respond to requests for comment.

According to one highly-placed source, Solivan worked out of what Fox insiders called “the Black Room,” an operation Ailes established around 2011 to conduct PR and surveillance campaigns against people he targeted both inside and outside the company. The “Black Room” was located on the 14th floor of the News Corp building at 1211 Avenue of the Americas, a quiet part of the office that housed Fox News Latino and some marketing and promotions employees. Fox employees Ken LaCorte and Jim Pinkerton, veteran political operatives who’ve worked with Ailes since the 1980s, also worked with Solivan, the source said, adding that Ailes’s personal lawyer, and Fox contributor, Peter Johnson Jr. advised the team. (In an email, Peter Johnson denied any involvement in “Black Room” campaigns, saying, “The only online campaign I’m aware of is yours attempting to create a truth from a fiction with this account.”)

Drip, Drip, Drip…BOOM!

Posted in FNC on July 29, 2016 by icn2

We long ago started crossing over into Cosby territory with the Ailes/Carlson lawsuit in as much as women coming forward to claim Ailes harassed them. But today New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman has the story of one woman who has gone public. To call this a bombshell just doesn’t quite do it justice.

The morning after Fox News chief Roger Ailes resigned, the cable network’s former director of booking placed a call to the New York law firm hired by 21st Century Fox to investigate sexual-harassment allegations against Ailes. Laurie Luhn told the lawyers at Paul, Weiss that she had been harassed by Ailes for more than 20 years, that executives at Fox News had known about it and helped cover it up, and that it had ruined her life. “It was psychological torture,” she later told me.

So far, most of the women who have spoken publicly about harassment by Ailes in the wake of Gretchen Carlson’s lawsuit had said no to Ailes’s sexual advances. They ran out of hotel rooms, they pulled away from embraces, they complained or avoided or generally resisted, even when it hurt their careers. This is the account of a woman who chose to go along with what Roger Ailes wanted — because he was powerful, because she thought he could help her advance her career, because she was professionally adrift and emotionally unmoored.

Doing so helped Luhn’s career for a time — at her peak, she earned $250,000 a year as an event planner at Fox while, according to both her own account and four confirming sources, enjoying Ailes’s protection within the company. But the arrangement required her to do many things she is now horrified by, including luring young female Fox employees into one-on-one situations with Ailes that Luhn knew could result in harassment. “He’s a predator,” she told me. In recent years, Luhn had a series of mental breakdowns that she attributes to the stress of her situation, and was even hospitalized for a time.

Read the whole thing through.

Michael Clemente Out at FNC…

Posted in FNC on July 25, 2016 by icn2

Well this isn’t exactly a surprise though the timing is interesting. TVNewser’s Chris Ariens writes that FNC specials/longform unit head Michael Clemente and his number 2 Peter Boyer are out at the network…

Clemente is the first high-profile executive to be dismissed following Roger Ailes‘s resignation last Thursday, but insiders say his dismissal was not tied to last week’s moves, when Ailes departed and 21st Century Fox chairman Rupert Murdoch named himself interim chairman.

Until April of this year, Clemente was EVP of News Editorial. He was moved to a specials/longform unit and was replaced by Jay Wallace, a longtime Fox Newser who started his career on Shepard Smith‘s show. Bill Shine, who is Senior of programming, remains the internal frontrunner to oversee the channel when Murdoch steps back.

More Ailes Tick, Tock…

Posted in FNC on July 24, 2016 by icn2

In a must read, ABC News’ Josh Margolin (!!!) has some new details of what happened behind the scenes…

Quickly, Ailes assembled a war room at his home in Bergen County, New Jersey. Chief among those advising Ailes was his wife, Beth. In the room or dialed in on all-points conference calls were friends, and, importantly, PR and legal staff from Fox News, who were technically not even involved in the case.

Ailes made it clear to his team that he thought Lachlan and James Murdoch would try to use the Carlson lawsuit as a vehicle to remove him from his perch. After a career of battles -– both in politics and media -– Ailes figured he’d be able to strategize and scrap his way through and stay on top.

“We’re not going to let them win,” Ailes said of the Murdoch heirs.

In keeping with Ailes’ take-no-prisoners style, it was decided that the defense would be a blistering offense. And key to that would be a campaign of public pronouncements of support from Fox employees, to be led by those with the highest profile and best ratings. Quickly, the litany of A-listers coming out in support of their embattled boss would include Van Susteren, O’Reilly, Bartiromo, Jeanine Pirro and Neil Cavuto.

“It was an unbelievable campaign,” one insider told ABC News. “There was enormous pressure.”

And the pressure was most extreme to get Kelly on board. She had taken center stage in public battles this year with Donald Trump and she is perceived to be both a strong woman and an independent thinker. Getting Kelly on board would be a coup and was to send messages both to the wider world and those inside Fox headquarters in Midtown Manhattan that things would be OK for Ailes.

Kelly wouldn’t do what Ailes wanted. (Kelly declined to comment to ABC News.)

More FNC fallout from the Ailes mess…

Posted in FNC on July 23, 2016 by icn2

The New York Times’ Jim Rubenberg, Emily Steel, and John Koblin turn in a must read on…well…

In 2006, after nearly a decade at CNN, Rudi Bakhtiar came to the Fox News Channel’s headquarters in New York with a command of foreign policy, an appealing personality and a delivery that easily switched between light and serious.

After a six-month freelance arrangement, the network signed her to a three-year deal. Pretty quickly, she said, she was spending half her time in Washington, where the network sent her to fill in temporarily as a weekend correspondent, a post she hoped to win permanently.

Her break seemed to come in early 2007, she said, when she met for coffee in the lobby of her Washington hotel with a friend and colleague, Brian Wilson. He told her he would soon become Washington bureau chief and wanted to help her get the weekend job. Then he said, “You know how I feel about you, Rudi.”

Recalling the encounter in a recent phone interview, Ms. Bakhtiar said she was thrilled and told Mr. Wilson she would make him proud. But, she said, he repeated himself, asking, “You know how I feel about you?” When she asked him what he meant, he said, “Well, I’d like to see the inside of your hotel room,” adding that he wanted a friends-with-benefits relationship.

She politely rebuffed him, she said, apologizing for giving him any wrong impression. After that rejection, she felt caught in a whirlwind in which, she said, network executives canceled her Washington appearances, directed her to report her allegations to human resources and, a few weeks later, let her go, with the Fox News chairman, Roger Ailes, telling her that her tenure was ending because of her performance. On Saturday, a senior Fox News executive repeated that assertion.

In a short time, she went from thinking she was in line to land the job she coveted to unemployment. After a mediation process, she reached a settlement in which Fox News paid her an undisclosed amount.

Contacted on Friday, Mr. Wilson, who went on to get the bureau chief job, said of Ms. Bakhtiar’s account: “I take strong exception to the facts of the story as you have relayed it to me, period. Beyond that, I will have no further comment.”

Ms. Bakhtiar concedes that she agreed in her settlement not to speak of her experience. But she said she was emboldened to step forward by the sexual harassment lawsuit that the former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson brought against Mr. Ailes this month, and a subsequent investigation that has brought to light at least 10 other claims of improper behavior involving him. Mr. Ailes resigned from Fox News on Thursday.

Murdoch’s First Day

Posted in FNC on July 22, 2016 by icn2

The Hollywood Reporter’s Marisa Guthrie writes about Rupert Murdoch’s first day minding the FNC store…

Certainly Rupert Murdoch is no stranger to the business of Fox News, which is among the portfolio’s most valuable assets and contributes nearly 25 percent to the company’s bottom line. But his multiple weekly conversations with Ailes were about big-picture topics, not day-to-day operations. And so Murdoch’s task ahead is familiarizing himself with the running of the channel. In this effort, Rupert is said to be leaning heavily on current Fox News executives including Jay Wallace, who in April was promoted to executive vp news and editorial, CFO Mark Kranz, and especially Bill Shine, a longtime Fox News executive who runs primetime programming and also oversees Fox Business Network. Shine is said to be in the running for the permanent CEO job.

In addition, Fox News communications chief Irena Briganti will remain as executive vp of corporate communications of Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network, a move that might surprise some journalists because of Briganti’s years of hard-charging allegiance to Ailes. A spokesperson for 21st Century Fox confirmed that she will stay on and she was at work on Friday.

From Lawsuit Prep to Resignation

Posted in FNC on July 22, 2016 by icn2

The Washington Post’s Manuel Roig-Franzia, Scott Higham, Paul Farhi, and Krissah Thompson turn in a must read on the runup to Gretchen Carlson’s lawsuit and how it brought down Roger Ailes.

One day in early June, an embattled but determined news anchor, a public relations man and a group of attorneys settled into chairs around the conference table on the 35th floor of a law office on Madison Avenue in Manhattan.

Gretchen Carlson’s tenure as an on-air host at Fox News was imperiled, and she knew it. For the previous nine months she’d been quietly meeting with attorneys to craft a sexual-harassment lawsuit against her boss, the all-powerful Fox News chairman, Roger Ailes. Now she was almost ready to go public with her allegation that Ailes had sabotaged her career because she wouldn’t have sex with him. But questions ricocheted around the room.

What would be the fallout? How would this be perceived? How would it play?

“We knew Fox was a high-powered, very potent machine that would go into full attack mode,” recalled Carlson’s public relations agent, Allan Ripp, who was meeting his client for the first time that day. “But she was resolved.”

Within weeks, Carlson would be out of a job, and a cascading series of events, unfolding with dizzying speed, would culminate in the public shaming and resignation this week of Ailes, one of the most influential executives in American television history, as well as a primary architect of the modern-day Republican Party and conservative movement. News of Carlson’s firing, and the lawsuit she filed shortly thereafter, have now prompted 25 women to come forward with what they describe as similar harassment claims against Ailes that stretch across five decades back to his days in the 1960s as a young television producer, according to Carlson’s attorney, Nancy Erika Smith.

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