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Nobody Here But Us Chickens: Murdoch Whistle Blower Found Dead

COMMENT: A Murdoch whistle blower, central to helping to expose the phone hacking scandal, has been found dead in his apartment.

In what seems to be almost obligatory downplaying of the significance of this event, the authorities are already spinning this death as “not suspicious.”

Remember that this case goes to the highest levels of the British government, and to Scotland Yard, as well as to the Murdoch empire.

The [now resigned] head of Scotland Yard was also in charge of counterterrorism for some time.

Note that Sean Hoare expressed fear for his life, before he was found dead, in circumstances that the authorities immediately labeled “not suspicious.”

And, of course, the media–chickens all–have gone along with this dance, as usual.

Recall, also, that, in addition to his profound relationship with the GOP and far right in this country and the United Kingdom, Murdoch’s second largest stockholder is Prince Alwaleed, closely affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.

“Police Say ‘No One Else Involved’ in Death of Phone-Hacking Whistleblower Who ‘Feared Someone Was Out to Get Him'” by Sam Greenhill, Tom Kelly and James Chapman; Daily Mail; 7/20/2011.

EXCERPT: The man who launched the entire phone hacking scandal had become a paranoid recluse who believed someone was out to get him, a friend has revealed.

Sean Hoare, who was found dead at his flat in Watford, Hertfordshire, had spent much of the last weeks of his life ‘hiding’ in his flat with the curtains drawn.

A post mortem examination revealed that there was no third party involvement in the death. Officers are not treating the death as suspicious although it will be several weeks before they have full toxicology results.

A friend and neighbour claimed Mr Hoare, 47, had become increasingly reclusive and paranoid in recent weeks.

‘He would talk about someone from the Government coming to get him,’ he said.

‘He’d say to me, “If anyone comes by, don’t say I’m in.” . . .

Discussion

26 comments for “Nobody Here But Us Chickens: Murdoch Whistle Blower Found Dead”

  1. There’s a 2 minute clip of News of the World jouralist Paul McMullan’s 11/29 testimony in the ongoing investigation in this article. The entire testimony (which is a cspan so it might be available in the cspan online archives) is worth watching as a peep into the inner world of Murdoch’s muckraking machine. The part where he discusses his views on privacy is particularly striking to watch, but you really have to hope the growing number of official/unofficial public/private surveillance-state employees don’t agree too much:

    ‘Privacy Is For Paedos’ Paul McMullan Shocks Leveson Inquiry Over Hacking Culture
    The Huffington Post UK | Nov 29, 2011 11:38 AM EST

    Former News of the World reporter Paul McMullan has said phone hacking was a “school yard trick” and declared that “privacy is for paedos” in an explosive testimony before the Leveson inquiry.
    In 21 years of invading people’s privacy I’ve never actually come across anyone who’s been doing any good,” he told the hearing in London on Tuesday.
    “Privacy is the space bad people need to do bad things in. Privacy is for paedos; fundamentally nobody else needs it.”

    Privacy is evil

    This message brought to you by “Big Brother Against Paedos” and corporate sponsors.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 6, 2011, 10:51 pm
  2. More drip drip drip in the Snoopert Murderoch’s hacking scandal…the hacking wasn’t limited to phones and it wasn’t just used for spying:

    Questions for News Corp over rival’s collapse

    Software company NDS allegedly cracked smart card codes of ONdigital, according to evidence to be broadcast on Panorama

    David Leigh
    guardian.co.uk, Monday 26 March 2012 17.23 EDT

    Part of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation empire employed computer hacking to undermine the business of its chief TV rival in Britain, according to evidence due to be broadcast by BBC1’s Panorama programme on Monday .

    The allegations stem from apparently incriminating emails the programme-makers have obtained, and on-screen descriptions for the first time from two of the people said to be involved, a German hacker and the operator of a pirate website secretly controlled by a Murdoch company.

    The witnesses allege a software company NDS, owned by News Corp, cracked the smart card codes of rival company ONdigital. ONdigital, owned by the ITV companies Granada and Carlton, eventually went under amid a welter of counterfeiting by pirates, leaving the immensely lucrative pay-TV field clear for Sky.

    The allegations, if proved, cast further doubt on whether News Corp meets the “fit and proper” test required to run a broadcaster in Britain. It emerged earlier this month that broadcasting regulator Ofcom has set up a unit called Project Apple to establish whether BSkyB, 39.1% owned by News Corp, meets the test.

    Panorama’s emails appear to state that ONdigital’s secret codes were first cracked by NDS, and then subsequently publicised by the pirate website, called The House of Ill Compute – THOIC for short. According to the programme, the codes were passed to NDS’s head of UK security, Ray Adams, a former police officer. NDS made smart cards for Sky. NDS was jointly funded by Sky, which says it never ran NDS.

    Lee Gibling, operator of THOIC, says that behind the scenes, he was being paid up to £60,000 a year by Adams, and NDS handed over thousands more to supply him with computer equipment.

    He says Adams sent him the ONdigital codes so that other pirates could use them to manufacture thousands of counterfeit smart cards, giving viewers illicit free access to ONdigital, then Sky’s chief business rival.

    Gibling says he and another NDS employee later destroyed much of the computer evidence with a sledgehammer. After that NDS continued to send him money, he says, until the end of 2008, when he was given a severance payment of £15,000 with a confidentiality clause attached. An expert hacker, Oliver Koermmerling, who cracked the codes in the first place, says on the programme that he, like Gibling, had been recruited on NDS’s behalf by Adams.

    The potentially seismic nature of these pay-TV allegations was underlined over the weekend, when News Corp’s lawyers, Allen & Overy, sought to derail the programme in advance by sending round denials and legal threats to other media organisations. They said any forthcoming BBC allegations that NDS “has been involved in illegal activities designed to cause the collapse of a business rival” would be false and libellous, and demanded they not be repeated.

    On the programme, former Labour minister Tom Watson, who has been prominent in pursuit of Murdoch over the separate News of the World phone-hacking scandals, predicts that Ofcom could not conceivably regard the Murdochs as “fit and proper” to take full control of Sky, if the allegations were correct.

    James Murdoch, who is deputy chief operating officer of News Corp and chairman of BSkyB, was a non-executive director of NDS when ONdigital was hacked. There is no evidence, the BBC says, that he knew about the events alleged by Panorama.

    Gibling told the programme: “There was a meeting that took place in a hotel and Mr Adams, myself and other NDS representatives were there … and it became very clear there was a hack going on.”

    He claimed: “They delivered the actual software to be able to do this, with prior instructions that it should go to the widest possible community … software [intended] to be able to activate ONdigital cards. So giving a full channel line-up without payment.”

    Gibling says that when fellow pirates found out in 2002 that he was being secretly funded by NDS, THOIC was hastily closed down and he was told by Adams’s security unit to make himself scarce.

    “We sledgehammered all the hard drives.” He says he was told to go into hiding abroad.

    Kommerling says he was recruited by Adams in 1996. “He looked at me and said ‘Could you imagine working for us?'”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 27, 2012, 8:00 am
  3. “He turned a blind eye and exhibited willful blindness to what was going on in his companies. We conclude, therefore, that Rupert Murdoch is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company”.

    Well, it’s a step in the right direction but can we start applying this standard to more of the people currently exercising the stewardship of major international companies? I kind of like this “expecting the leaders of major international companies to be morally fit to lead them” idea.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 1, 2012, 7:23 am
  4. News Corp just announced a split in to two companies. And for anyone that’s counting, there’s 120 newspapers in the new, slimmer News Corp, which is still going to be the largest publishing operation in the English-speaking world:

    News Corp. shareholders approve of split into 2 companies
    The coming breakup of News Corp. into two companies is expected to test whether investors share Rupert Murdoch’s confidence in a solid future for newspapers.
    June 12, 2013|By Meg James, Los Angeles Times

    News Corp. has moved closer to its historic breakup that is expected to test whether investors share Chairman Rupert Murdoch’s confidence that there is a solid future for newspapers.

    On Tuesday, shareholders approved measures that will allow Murdoch’s sprawling media empire to be cleaved into two separate publicly traded companies. The most profitable assets — Fox News Channel, the Fox broadcast TV network, Fox regional sports networks, FX and the 20th Century Fox movie studio — will form 21st Century Fox Inc.

    The publishing assets, including the Wall Street Journal, Times of London, New York Post, the Australian, HarperCollins book publishing house and several Australian television properties, will form a separate company. Murdoch said the new entity, which will bear the News Corp. name and boast 120 newspapers, will make up the largest publishing operation in the English-speaking world.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 13, 2013, 12:12 pm
  5. Posted by GK | July 1, 2013, 10:27 pm
  6. Posted by GK | August 28, 2013, 8:41 pm
  7. If a hoard of sock puppets under Rupert Murdoch’s command sounds scary, imagine hacker sockpuppets. Hacker sockpuppets – like firms hackers offering sockpuppetry servicescan be pretty scary too. Ok, the firms offering sockpuppetry services may not have been all that scary in practice but it’s still theoretically pretty scary (with or without government involvement)

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 22, 2013, 10:06 pm
  8. For a guy that’s spent his life trying to kill journalism and the democratic system, this is sounds about right:

    The Sydney Morning Herald
    Murdoch editors told to ‘kill Whitlam’ in 1975

    Date June 27, 2014

    Phillip Dorling

    Exclusive

    News Corporation chief Rupert Murdoch directed his editors to “kill Whitlam” some 10 months before the downfall of Gough Whitlam’s Labor government, according to a newly released United States diplomatic report.

    The US National Archives has just declassified a secret diplomatic telegram dated January 20, 1975 that sheds new light on Murdoch’s involvement in the tumultuous events of Australia’s 1975 constitutional crisis.

    Entitled “Australian publisher privately turns on Prime Minister,” the telegram from US Consul-General in Melbourne, Robert Brand, reported to the State Department that “Rupert Murdoch has issued [a] confidential instruction to editors of newspapers he controls to ‘Kill Whitlam’ “.

    Describing Mr Murdoch as “the l’enfant terrible of Australian journalism,” Mr Brand noted that Mr Murdoch had been “the principal publisher supporting the Whitlam election effort in 1972 Labor victory”.

    With a publishing empire that included The Australian as well as daily or Sunday newspapers in every Australian capital, Mr Murdoch’s new editorial direction was seen as a critical political development.

    “If Murdoch attack directed against Whitlam personally this could presage hard times for Prime Minister; but if against Labor government would be dire news for party,” Mr Brand telegraphed.

    The consul-general’s urgent report was prompted by US Labour Attache Edward Labatt who drew upon a range of confidential union and business sources, including people working for News Limited newspapers, to report on industrial relations and political developments.

    Mr Brand’s telegram makes it clear the words “kill Whitlam” were a political direction to News Limited newspapers and not a physical threat to the prime minister.

    The consul-general’s January, 1975 telegram has only been declassified this week after Fairfax Media applied for access 10 months ago. The identity of Labor Attache Labatt’s confidential source of information has been redacted.

    Other diplomatic cables previously released by the US National Archives and published by WikiLeaks in mid-2013 revealed that Mr Murdoch foresaw the downfall of Whitlam’s Labor government a year before its dismissal.

    In November, 1974, US Ambassador Marshall Green reported to Washington that Murdoch privately predicted that “Australian elections are likely to take place in about one year, sparked by refusal of appropriations in the Senate”.

    One year later, on November 11, 1975 Governor-General Sir John Kerr dismissed Mr Whitlam as the prime minister after the Liberal-Country Party opposition blocked the budget in the Senate.

    Although Murdoch believed he played “a substantial role” in Labor’s 1972 election victory, his enthusiasm for Whitlam had quickly waned.

    “He expects to support the opposition in the next election,” Ambassador Green reported in November, 1974.

    The newly released US cable reveals Mr Murdoch’s political shift was quickly confirmed, at least 10 months before Kerr’s dismissal of the government.

    News Limited newspapers savaged Whitlam and strongly backed opposition leader Malcolm Fraser, so much so that journalists at The Australian took industrial action in protest.

    The Labor Party was crushed at the polls and did not return to power until 1983.

    Mr Fraser acknowledged Murdoch’s support but said the newspaper proprietor’s political role is easily overstated given the collapse in public support for the scandal-ridden Whitlam government.

    “Rupert had influential newspapers, certainly, but I don’t think it affected the election outcome,” Mr Fraser said.

    In other news:

    Bloomberg Businessweek
    Rupert Murdoch’s Inner Circle Escapes Again
    By Felix Gillette June 24, 2014

    At long last, Rupert Murdoch’s top priority in the London phone-hacking scandal has been achieved. Rebekah Brooks is in the clear. On Tuesday in London, after weeks of deliberation, a jury found Brooks not guilty on charges of phone hacking, bribery, and perverting the course of justice.

    So far, Murdoch has remained mum on Twitter (TWTR) about the verdict. It wouldn’t be surprising if he is privately rejoicing. Brooks, the former head of News Corp’s (NWSA) newspapers in London, was a longtime, beloved favorite of Murdoch’s.

    In the meantime, Andy Coulson, a former editor of Murdoch’s now defunct News of the World and erstwhile head of communications for Prime Minister David Cameron, was found guilty on a single count of phone hacking. The verdict prompted an immediate apology from Cameron. “I am extremely sorry that I employed him,” said the prime minister.

    While Coulson’s conviction provides yet another embarrassing moment for Cameron, Brooks’ acquittal is yet another surprising victory for Murdoch in the long and gradual unwinding of the phone hacking and police bribery scandal that battered his empire.

    Credit the protege for learning from the master. Murdoch is, after all, the ultimate escape artist in the scandal-factory business.

    “Time and again, when his plans have gone awry and he has found himself facing calamity, his superb survival skills have saved him,” Australian journalist Neil Chenoweth wrote in a biography of Murdoch published in 2002. “This is Murdoch’s genius: not that he gets into a jam, but that he is able to walk away afterward, an implausible winner.”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 28, 2014, 4:12 pm
  9. Could the acquittal of Rebekah Brooks actually lead to more headaches for Rupert Murdoch? Perhaps, if seeming like an untouchable, corrupting force in the world somehow translates into a headache:

    Reuters
    Rupert Murdoch’s troubles are far from over
    By Nicholas Wapshott
    July 1, 2014

    The acquittal of Rupert Murdoch’s favorite executive, the flame-haired Rebekah Brooks, on charges of phone hacking and destroying the evidence might have marked the final act in one of the most bruising and expensive chapters in the history of News Corp.

    It hasn’t turned out that way.

    The $85 million that Murdoch paid to help keep his protégée out of jail has done little more than stoke the fires of resentment against his company in Britain. It also reminded U.S. federal authorities of the likelihood that similar crimes have been committed in America.

    With convictions secured in Britain for bribing public officials, there is already enough evidence for U.S. authorities to pursue News Corp. under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Which may be why the FBI requisitioned 80,000 emails from News Corp.’s New York headquarters.

    There is little worse for a media company than becoming a front-page story. For the past nine years, Murdoch’s empire has been dogged by accusations that it had been running a criminal operation to bribe public officials and steal messages from cell phones to feed the lucrative scandal sheets that funded News Corp.’s growth from the get-go.

    The London investigation led to a number of trials that proved Murdoch’s staff paid government employees for information and hacked phones.

    But the showpiece — at least so far because more bribery trials are set for later this year and authorities on both sides of the Atlantic are considering legal action against News Corp. — was the trial of Brooks, who ran Murdoch’s London press operations, and Andy Coulson, her deputy, successor, close associate and secret lover. When the frenzy around the hacking crimes was at its most intense, Murdoch said his top priority was not protecting his company, its shareholders or his six children who are set to inherit the firm — but Brooks.

    He proved as good as his word. The 83-year-old media tycoon spent millions of dollars on Brooks’ lavish defense, while prosecutors operated on a cheese-paring budget. Many Brits saw for the first time a U.S. system of justice operating in the Old Bailey, England’s principal criminal court: May the richest side win.

    The trick worked. Brooks walked free. But instead of bringing to an end questions about how far up the executive ladder the criminality reached, her acquittal achieved the opposite. In Britain there is widespread disbelief and anger at the Brooks verdict. As one veteran U.S. editor put it, “Rebekah is Britain’s O.J. Simpson.”

    Those who have worked for Murdoch also found the decision hard to fathom. While he pays little attention to the running of the Fox movie studio or the Fox TV channels, even Fox News, Murdoch likes nothing better than to play with his newspapers — like a teenage boy with an Xbox. Top editors operate under a rough-and-tumble ethos. Murdoch makes regular blunt calls across the Atlantic to make suggestions he expects to be followed to the letter. As he once said, “I try to keep in touch with the details.”

    Far from showing Brooks as the consummate professional and the ultimate Murdoch executive, however, her defense rested on convincing the jury she did not know what she was doing. Even though Murdoch had made her editor of both his tabloids, then boss of the whole London operation. The tight grip over every last headline and picture that Murdoch expects from his editors was, the jury was led to believe, conspicuously missing in the one editor he favored above all others.

    In the absence of any convincing evidence to the contrary — Brooks was also charged with destroying evidence — the jury accepted that it could not be proved beyond reasonable doubt she knew that phone hacking was going on directly under her nose.

    To achieve his key aim has cost Murdoch dear. His company remains in deep trouble in addition to the $1 billion so far in payments to hacking victims and on legal fees to defend his staff. He should, perhaps, have spent more time trying to protect Coulson, Brooks’s devoted sidekick, who was found guilty last week and is to be sentenced to jail time on Friday.

    At the least, Coulson’s guilt confirms that criminality reached the door of Murdoch’s office. “For better or for worse,” Murdoch himself put it, “our company a reflection of my thinking, my character, my ideas.” Though he seems to have handily forgotten his mantra, “The buck stops with the guy who signs the checks.”

    How will Rupert deal the pain of becoming known as an untouchable power monger? Well, after the big Hobby Lobby Supreme Court ruling, one form of therapy could involve buying out the rest of the non-Murdoch Family News Corp shareholders, thus turning the company into a “closely held” corporation that can be ruled to reflect Rupert’s religion. That might be fun and great was to show the world his deeply held morality.

    Or he could just ignore the critics and soothe the pain with a big buyout binge. Just imagine how good it would feel to and finally scratch that itch that never goes away:

    Rupert Murdoch’s interest in Time Warner fuels industry speculation
    By Reuters
    Tuesday, July 1, 2014 7:55 EDT

    By Ronald Grover

    LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Rupert Murdoch jets into Idaho’s Sun Valley next week for the year’s most exclusive tech and media industry gathering, armed with both the money and the appetite for a major deal.

    The 83-year-old Twenty-First Century Fox Inc chief executive officer, a regular at investment bank Allen & Co’s annual gathering, is in the midst of a deal that would give Fox the firepower to buy a content company.

    Fox’s 39 percent-owned British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc is negotiating to buy Fox’s Sky Italia and its Sky Deutschland subsidiary in a deal that could net Fox as much as $13 billion.

    Sun Valley will be teeming with CEOs whose companies might fit the bill. Among expected attendees are Time Warner Inc CEO Jeff Bewkes and Viacom Inc CEO Philippe Dauman.

    Murdoch’s interest in Time Warner despite its $62 billion market value has been the subject of industry speculation. He still covets the owner of HBO, among other potential targets, according to a former News Corp employee told by executives recently about Murdoch’s interest.

    The source did not know if Murdoch had made an approach. Time Warner spokesman Keith Cocozza and Fox spokesman Nathaniel Brown declined to comment.

    “I’m not sure he could afford it, but you never want to say that about Rupert Murdoch,” said former Viacom President Frank Biondi, an Allen & Co regular who is not going this year.

    Some of the highest-profile chieftains in media and technology, from Facebook Inc’s Mark Zuckerberg to Apple Inc’s Tim Cook, gather at Sun Valley each year.

    The conference generated deal discussions in the past. Comcast Corp CEO Brian Roberts discussed NBC with General Electric Co CEO Jeff Immelt one year. Biondi says he began talks to sell Madison Square Garden to John Malone’s Liberty Media Corp there, but the deal fell apart.

    Murdoch will be accompanied by sons Lachlan and James. Earlier this year, the elder Murdoch elevated Lachlan to non-executive co-chairman and James to co-chief operating officer. James has been especially interested in acquisitions, said a former top executive at News Corp familiar with their thinking.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 1, 2014, 2:31 pm
  10. In case it wasn’t clear that the leaders of the multinational giants of the world truly think they should be running the world and have all the solutions necessary to solve our problems, here’s an article about the talk Rupert Murdoch just gave at the “B20”. The B20 is the group set up by multinational corporate giants in 2010 to lobby the G20, just in case those giants weren’t already influencing those governments enough:

    Irish Independent
    Murdoch defends Irish tax regime
    Jane Wardell

    Published 18/07/2014|00:00

    Media mogul Rupert Murdoch criticised G20 governments for trying to introduce measures to prevent companies using low tax states such as Ireland.

    “Do we really expect overseas companies to voluntarily bring profits back to be taxed at 35pc to 40pc in the United States, when the corporate tax rate in Ireland is 12.5pc?” Mr Murdoch asked at a conference on business growth. “This is not the way to achieve economic growth.”

    The 80-year-old blamed excessive financial regulation for stymieing free markets and urged Group of 20 governments to “take a back seat” to allow businesses to drive economic growth.

    Mr Murdoch also said US President Barack Obama was penalising businesses by cracking down on so-called “profit shifting” by major corporations to countries with lighter tax regimes, a technique that is also in the sights of the G20.

    Audacious

    My blood pressure goes up when I think of the number of local, state and federal regulations we have in our lives today,” Mr Murdoch told a meeting of the Business 20 (B20) leaders in Sydney, a day after his Twenty-First Century Fox made an audacious $80bn offer for Time Warner.

    “That is just in America. Don’t even get me started on the European Union.”

    The B20 was set up in 2010 to give policy recommendations on behalf of the international business community to the G20. Business leaders meeting here are looking to influence the outcome of the G20 Leaders Summit in Brisbane in November.

    “I believe that business does have a role in shaping public policy, mainly in helping limit the size and scope of government,” Mr Murdoch said.

    “For businesses large and small, there’s simply too much red tape, too many subservient politicians stifling economic growth and entrepreneurism.”

    Along with targeting growth of 2pc above trend over the next five years, the G20 is tackling corporate “profit shifting”, which has allowed multinationals such as Starbucks, Google, Apple and Amazon.com to avoid paying taxes.

    Mr Obama earlier this year proposed tightening restrictions on US multinationals that shift their tax domiciles abroad in his 2015 budget.

    Mr Obama wants to raise the minimum level of foreign ownership in a newly inverted holding company to 50pc from about 20pc, making the deals more difficult.

    “My blood pressure goes up when I think of the number of local, state and federal regulations we have in our lives today”. So it’s either an endless race to the bottom for everyone, or Rupert’s blood pressure goes up. Tough decision.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 18, 2014, 3:06 pm
  11. Meet the new media boss. Same as the old media boss. Except possibly with an even greater incentive to obscure local corruption which is why so many people are so concerned about new boss:

    The New York Times
    Oligarchs of Eastern Europe Scoop Up Stakes in Media Companies

    By RICK LYMAN
    November 26, 2014

    BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — Across Eastern Europe, local oligarchs and investment groups — some directly connected to their countries’ political leadership — are snapping up newspapers and other media companies, prompting deep concerns among journalists and others about press freedom.

    It is just one of an array of developments across the region raising questions, a quarter century after the fall of the Berlin Wall, about progress toward Western standards of democracy and free speech. As in Russia, there are increasing worries about a potentially dangerous concentration of power in the hands of people who have managed to acquire both wealth and political influence and are increasingly extending their control to media outlets.

    Here in Slovakia, a German media company sold a substantial stake in the nation’s last serious, independent newspaper to a well-connected investment group that had been among its investigative targets.

    At a time of similar developments across the region, what stood out in the investment in Petit Press and its prominent SME flagship newspaper by the group, Penta Investments, was the reaction of the paper’s staff.

    Maqtus Kostolny, 39, editor in chief for the last eight years, walked out the door. Four of his deputies followed. And 50 members of the paper’s 80-person staff submitted notice to leave by the end of the year.

    “I think Penta intends to misuse the newspapers for their own purposes,” Mr. Kostolny said. “Their idea of free speech is entirely different from mine.”

    But the situation in Slovakia is just the latest in which owners, often Western European or American, have chosen to sell Eastern European media properties and powerful local interests have stepped forward and snapped them up.

    Andrej Babis, an agriculture and fertilizer tycoon, not only owns the Czech Republic’s largest publishing house and several important media outlets, he is the government’s minister of finance.

    In Latvia, opaque disclosure laws obscured who controlled much of the country’s news media until a corruption investigation of one of the country’s richest businessmen revealed that he and two other oligarchs were the principal owners.

    In Hungary, beyond outright state ownership of much of the news media, top associates of Prime Minister Viktor Orban control significant chunks. Chief among them is Lajos Simicska, who went to school with the prime minister and whose construction company has profited lavishly from state contracts, although the two are said to be feuding of late.

    In Romania, the leading television news station, the right-wing Antena 3, is only part of the vast media empire owned by the billionaire Dan Voiculescu, the founder of the country’s Conservative Party. In August, Mr. Voiculescu was sentenced to 10 years in prison on money laundering charges.

    Several oligarchs control the media companies in Bulgaria, regularly ranked in last place among European Union nations in the World Press Freedom Index. That includes a former lawmaker, Delyan Peevski, whose New Bulgarian Media Group — ostensibly controlled by his mother, though opponents charge that he holds the real power — has been closely linked to governments controlled by several parties.

    In the 1990s, after the collapse of Communism, most media outlets were either owned outright by the state or utterly dependent on government advertising. When foreign owners — most notably from Germany, Sweden, Switzerland and the United States — subsequently bought up local newspapers, magazines and broadcast outlets, journalists found that the distant owners had no interest in local politics. That was a relief for a time.

    “For us, it was perfect,” Mr. Kostolny said of the German conglomerate that owned SME. “We had very professional owners who never picked up the phone and tried to influence the newspaper. Not once.”

    But when the economy sank in 2008, most of these foreign owners decided to retreat to their core businesses back home and put their media companies in Central and Eastern Europe on the block. At that point, the distance between their Western owners and the political realities in their countries began to seem like a drawback, especially as the owners began selling to local interests with a direct stake in the coverage.

    “It turned out that as much as they didn’t care about Slovak politics, they also didn’t care about who they sold the papers to and the impact of the sale on Czech and Slovak society,” Mr. Kostolny said.

    The end result, said Marian Lesko, a commentator for Trend Magazine, a Bratislava-based business journal also owned by Penta Investments, is that “in Slovakia, independent media is no more, basically.”

    Alexej Fulmek, the chief executive of Petit Press and one of the founders of SME, said he was troubled by Penta’s stake in the company but decided to stay on to protect SME and the other Petit Press publications, including the most important network of regional papers in the country.

    “I am not happy with the situation,” he said. “We don’t like Penta. They have too many economic interests with the government.”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 27, 2014, 10:46 am
  12. Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 22, 2014, 3:08 pm
  13. Is Roger Ailes’s long tenure as the head of Fox News and leading figure in the undermining of American journalism finally coming to an end? If the following speculation about a desire within the Murdoch family to oust Ailes is correct, the end does indeed look near for Ailes thanks to Gretchen Carlson’s lawsuit alleging that Ailes is a serial sexual predator:

    New York Magazine

    Gretchen Carlson’s Sexual-Harassment Lawsuit May Allow Murdoch Sons to Finally Oust Roger Ailes From Fox News

    By Gabriel Sherman

    July 7, 2016 2:53 p.m.

    Throughout his five-decade career in media and Republican politics, Roger Ailes has demonstrated a remarkable talent for self-preservation. “I have been through about 12 train wrecks in my career. Somehow, I always walk away,” he boasted in the mid-’90s to a senior NBC executive who’d alleged Ailes hurled an anti-Semitic comment at him. As the head of Fox News, Ailes deployed his survival skills frequently to weather scandals of career-ending proportions and a bitter power struggle with Rupert Murdoch’s oldest son, Lachlan.

    But in the wake of Gretchen Carlson’s shocking sexual-harassment lawsuit against Ailes, there are signs that the 76 year-old’s luck may have finally expired.

    On Wednesday, Fox’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, released a terse statement saying it took the allegations “seriously” and is conducting an “internal review of the matter.” The wording and timing of the press release — Ailes had yet to issue his own response, which, when it came, described the lawsuit as “retaliatory” (Carlson was just dropped from Fox) and claimed it would be “vigorously defended” – signal that Ailes’s standing with the Murdochs is precarious. According to one highly placed Fox source, Murdoch and his sons, Lachlan and James, approved the hiring of an outside lawyer to conduct the independent investigation. While it’s common for large companies to bring in outside counsel to conduct inquiries during public scandals, the move is a radical one for Murdoch. “Unprecedented,” one former senior executive told me. “It’s not Rupert’s style to investigate internal issues.”

    Executives I spoke with over the past 24 hours said the hiring of an outside lawyer is also an indication that Murdoch’s sons may be capitalizing on the Carlson scandal to achieve a long-held goal: forcing Ailes out. “It’s a coup,” one person close to the company told me. If the investigation into Ailes’s management confirms Carlson’s account, or turns up additional episodes of harassment with other Fox women, it stands to reason the Murdoch children would have the leverage they need to push Ailes aside and install a less-right-wing chief. “This could be curtains for Ailes,” another person close to the company said. Indeed, several months after NBC hired an outside counsel in 1995 to investigate Ailes’s alleged anti-Semitic slur, he left NBC.

    Based on what Carlson’s camp is saying, it appears her lawsuit could unleash a torrent of new allegations from other women. “Someone suggested he’s the Bill Cosby of media,” Carlson’s lawyer, Nancy Erika Smith, told me today. “My office is being deluged with calls and website contacts from women. I don’t even have a count anymore … Women as young as 16 who said he demanded oral sex. Another said during an interview that he said, ‘Take off your bra.’ She was devastated.” Smith told me she’s forwarding the names of women who agreed to be interviewed to journalists. The New York Times currently has multiple reporters working on the story.

    So far, no women have gone on the record. But Carlson isn’t the first to publicly challenge the Fox chief. In my 2014 biography of Ailes, I reported three incidents where Ailes made inappropriate sexual comments at women in professional settings. One of the women, Randi Harrison, said that when she interviewed for a producing job at NBC in the early ’80s, Ailes said he’d increase her salary by $100 a week in exchange for sex. After the incident, Ailes’s friend John Huddy tracked Harrison down and asked her at a bar if she was wearing a wire.

    Executives I spoke with over the past 24 hours said the hiring of an outside lawyer is also an indication that Murdoch’s sons may be capitalizing on the Carlson scandal to achieve a long-held goal: forcing Ailes out. “It’s a coup,” one person close to the company told me. If the investigation into Ailes’s management confirms Carlson’s account, or turns up additional episodes of harassment with other Fox women, it stands to reason the Murdoch children would have the leverage they need to push Ailes aside and install a less-right-wing chief. “This could be curtains for Ailes,” another person close to the company said. Indeed, several months after NBC hired an outside counsel in 1995 to investigate Ailes’s alleged anti-Semitic slur, he left NBC.”

    Wait, so the Murdoch kids want to use this scandal to put a less-right-wing person in charge of Fox News?! Is a kinder, gentler Fox News the future for the network? Well, there have been rumblings about the Murdoch kids not being quite as conservative as their father so it’s not inconceivable, especially in Donald Trump trashes the conservative brand this year. But decades of right-wing disinformation fed millions of people night after night don’t just dissipate when a new CEO steps in. Far-right hysterics is what pays the bills so far so it’s hard to see how replacing Ailes with someone else frees the network from their Frankenstein’s Monster.

    Fox News-lite! Now with only half the poison and bile. It’s a nice thought. And who knows, if Gretchen Carlson thoroughly exposes Ailes it’s very possible Fox News will be in need of an image makeover. Especially since, as we just saw, Fox News might be getting a new show this year: a Cosby Show-spinoff:


    Based on what Carlson’s camp is saying, it appears her lawsuit could unleash a torrent of new allegations from other women. “Someone suggested he’s the Bill Cosby of media,” Carlson’s lawyer, Nancy Erika Smith, told me today. “My office is being deluged with calls and website contacts from women. I don’t even have a count anymore … Women as young as 16 who said he demanded oral sex. Another said during an interview that he said, ‘Take off your bra.’ She was devastated.” Smith told me she’s forwarding the names of women who agreed to be interviewed to journalists. The New York Times currently has multiple reporters working on the story.

    “The Bill Cosby of media”. That’s the potential scandal Fox News could be dealing with here: a very powerful serial predator who has been terrorizing women in media for decades. Those were the whispers about Ailes as Carlson’s case went public.

    And as we’re learning now, those weren’t just whispers. Get ready for the New Cosby Show starring Roger Ailes:

    Think Progress

    Gretchen Carlson’s Lawsuit Opened A Floodgate Of Harassment Allegations Against Roger Ailes

    by Jessica Goldstein
    Jul 11, 2016 1:07 pm

    Last week, former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson sued Fox Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes for sexual harassment, alleging unwanted sexual advances at work, and career-demolition when she refused him. Her lawsuit details disgusting, alarming behavior: Ailes allegedly told her that she should “have had a sexual relationship a long time ago” with him and, when she refuted his advances and complained about it, he “ended her career at Fox News.”

    As New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman writes, Carlson wasn’t the first woman to accuse Ailes of this inappropriate, appalling misconduct; his biography of Ailes, The Loudest Voice in the Room, included interviews with several women who said “Ailes had used his position of power to make either unwanted sexual advances or inappropriate sexual comments in the office.”

    Nancy Erika Smith, Carlson’s attorney, told Sherman that in the days since Carlson went public, over a dozen women have reached out to describe similar experiences with Ailes, revealing a pattern — demanding sexual favors in exchange for professional advancement, and putting a stop to the careers of women who did not oblige — dating back as far as the 1960s. Six of the women, two on the record and four anonymously, told their stories publicly to New York Magazine for the first time.

    Ailes’ outside counsel issued a statement in response to the new allegations: “It has become obvious that Ms. Carlson and her lawyer are desperately attempting to litigate this in the press because they have no legal case to argue. The latest allegations, all 30 to 50 years old, are false.”

    That the allegations are old, obviously, has no bearing on whether or not they are true. There are plenty of well-documented reasons why victims of sexual misconduct stay silent: trauma, shame, rightly-earned fear of retribution or worse. Evidence supports that women who go public are far more likely to be punished than to achieve anything close to justice. A number of Carlson’s former colleagues are already calling her allegations “B.S.” without “a ring of truth.”

    There are some striking parallels here to the Bill Cosby case: multiple allegations that span decades; accusers who are all female and all younger than the accused; meetings that were ostensibly about professional advancement that allegedly escalated into requests or demands for sexual favors. And the language used by Ailes’ attorney to dismiss these claims — a total denial, coloring the accusers as “desperate” and media-hungry, implying that the age of the allegations means they couldn’t possible be true — is very similar to the rhetoric deployed by Cosby’s various lawyers.

    Of the new accusers, the earliest account is from a woman who says she was doing modeling work as a teenager in “late ’65 or early ’66.” She was auditioning for The Mike Douglas Show, which Ailes produced at the time, and Ailes would take women who auditioned into a room one-on-one “behind closed doors.” When she went into the room, “He grabbed me and had his hands on me and he forced me to kiss him. When I recoiled he said, ‘Well, you know no girls get a job here unless they’re cooperative.’ I just pushed him away and ran out of there.”

    Two other allegations from the 1960s come from former models Marsha Callahan, who describes an encounter with Ailes in “either ’68 or ’67,” and Susan (not her real name), who says she met Ailes when she was 16 years old in the winter of 1967. Callahan, now 73 years old, was also called in to audition for The Mike Douglas Show. She says he insisted she wear a garter belt and stockings to their meeting.

    So I go into his office and right away he says, ‘Sit on the sofa and lift your skirt up.’ I had to do these different poses. And then, I recall very clearly, he said he’d put me on the show but I needed to go to bed with him. I was a really shy girl, but I was a little cheeky so I said, ‘Oh yeah, you and who else?’ And he said, ‘Only me and a few of my select friends.’

    She declined. When she did the show, she says, she saw Ailes and he “pretended not to know who I was.”

    Susan also met Ailes on The Mike Douglas Show. She claims he took her into his office and locked the door with a key. “He proceeded to pull down his pants and very gingerly pull out his genitals and said, ‘Kiss them.’ And they were red like raw hamburger… I was a kid, I’d never seen a man’s privates before. I jumped up, but the door is locked and nobody’s out there.”

    When it dawned on Ailes that she wouldn’t do as he asked, she said, he revealed a reel-to-reel tape recorder rolling in his desk and told her, “Don’t tell anybody about this. I’ve got it all on tape.”

    Kellie Boyle, a former Republican National Committee field adviser, says Ailes took her to a professional dinner in 1989 that ended in his car. He offered to give her a ride to her friend’s place, but once they were in the car, he said to her, “You know if you want to play with the big boys, you have to lay with the big boys.”

    He told her that to get the job she wanted — she was in Washington to “sign a major contract” with the National Republican Congressional Committee — she’d have to have sex with him and “give a blowjob every once in a while” to other male media figures. She told him later, by phone, that she wasn’t going to do that; she never got the job because, as she says a friend at the RNC told her, “word went out you weren’t to be hired.”

    Boyle recently gave an interview to Fortune, in which she described her experience in greater detail. She was just starting out in the political communications field and was, at the time of the encounter, a “big fan” of Ailes. “He was somebody I admired,” she said. She spent the entire 15-minute car ride listening to him talk and stalling, out of fear that he might assault her. “I was trying to not hurt his feelings but not be encouraging. I certainly wasn’t expecting what happened next.”

    What happened next, she claims, is that she “couldn’t even get in the door” to sign this contract she’d already been promised. No one was made available to speak with her and no explanation was provided. “I ended up driving back to New Jersey with nothing.” This week, Boyle said, she reached out to that RNC friend who had told her she was on a “do-not-hire” list to ask if he remembered the incident. He said he did. The experience made her lose her taste for politics and “for the trajectory I thought I was on.”

    The most recent allegation (aside, obviously, from Carlson’s) is from another anonymous accuser and allegedly took place around 1984. The then-30-year-old model/actress was new to New York and applying for broadcasting jobs when she landed a meeting with Ailes. She auditioned for him on camera; after the taping was done, he locked the door. “I figured out pretty quickly there was no job and this was just ruse,” she said. “He pulled out a garter belt and stockings and told me to put them on.” She was “very nervous” and complied. After that, “something sexual” that she has “blocked out” took place. “I felt I was being used for his sexual satisfaction.”

    There are some striking parallels here to the Bill Cosby case: multiple allegations that span decades; accusers who are all female and all younger than the accused; meetings that were ostensibly about professional advancement that allegedly escalated into requests or demands for sexual favors. And the language used by Ailes’ attorney to dismiss these claims — a total denial, coloring the accusers as “desperate” and media-hungry, implying that the age of the allegations means they couldn’t possible be true — is very similar to the rhetoric deployed by Cosby’s various lawyers.”

    Note that years that the above alleged harassment all took place ranged from the mid 60s to 1984. That leaves a three decade gap between the 1984 harassment and Gretchen Carlson’s recent harassment. So if these charges are true, there’s presumably a three decade period during which Ailes was ascending the heights of power in the news and media production world where he was either suddenly not a serial predator or we just haven’t heard from those victims yet. Assuming he didn’t suddenly stop this kind of abuse that means there’s potentially A LOT more stories of this nature yet to come out.

    Yeah, there are indeed some striking parallels with the Cosby case. And that’s part of why it’s not inconceivable that we really could see a Fox News makeover in coming years. Having Roger Ailes be replaced would be a pretty big deal no matter what. He was that influential. But having him be replace because he was exposed as a serial predator boss who has been dehumanizing women in the media for decades is potentially a much bigger deal. Especially if Hillary Clinton because the next president and the network inevitably unleashes a torrent of barely veiled political misogyny that doesn’t end for the next four to eight years.

    Also, don’t forget that Fox News’s audience has a median viewer age of 68. If that’s your network’s prime demographic, you probably don’t want to be pissing off women too much.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 11, 2016, 6:40 pm
  14. With the Republican National Convention fulling underway, the GOP’s rebranding as the Party of Trump is now an inevitability. Especially since the “Never Trump” contingent was just thwarted in its efforts to force a vote that would have “unbinded” delegates. All Aboard the Trump Train! *Toot* *Toot*

    It’s a pretty historic day. It would be even more historic of the GOP wasn’t already a metaphorical dumpster fire long before Trump came along, but still pretty historic. And it’s a little extra historic because the start of the RNC’s official transformation into the Party of Trump happened on the very same same we’re getting press reports that Roger Ailes is out at Fox News:

    New York Magazine

    Murdochs Have Decided to Remove Roger Ailes — the Only Question Now Is When

    By Gabriel Sherman
    July 18, 2016 12:43 p.m.

    Roger Ailes’s tenure as the head of Fox News may be coming to an end. Rupert Murdoch and sons Lachlan and James — co-chairmen and CEO, respectively, of parent company 21st Century Fox — have settled on removing the 76-year-old executive, say two sources briefed on a sexual-harassment investigation of Ailes being conducted by New York law firm Paul, Weiss. After reviewing the initial findings of the probe, James Murdoch is said to be arguing that Ailes should be presented with a choice this week to resign or face being fired. Lachlan is more aligned with their father, who thinks that no action should be taken until after the GOP convention this week. Another source confirms that all three are in agreement that Ailes needs to go.

    While Gretchen Carlson’s sexual-harassment lawsuit against Ailes sparked the investigation, sources say it has expanded into a wide-ranging inquiry into Ailes’s controversial management style. The interviews are now being conducted at Paul, Weiss’s midtown offices because of concerns that the Fox offices could be bugged, sources say. The lawyers are seeking to interview former female employees of Fox News in addition to current staff. They are also looking into the appropriateness of Ailes’s pressuring employees to speak out on his behalf, against his accusers. For instance, they are focusing on an op-ed written by Fox Business anchor Neil Cavuto in which Cavuto called the allegations against Ailes “sick.” As Cavuto is a manager at Fox News (his title is senior VP and managing editor), his comments could be seen as part of a corporate attempt to silence women who would speak out.

    Meanwhile, one Fox host told me that Ailes loyalists are reporting back on the investigation to his attorney, and Fox contributor, Susan Estrich. “They’re scared to death,” one Fox anchor told me. “The mood is bleak.”

    “After reviewing the initial findings of the probe, James Murdoch is said to be arguing that Ailes should be presented with a choice this week to resign or face being fired. Lachlan is more aligned with their father, who thinks that no action should be taken until after the GOP convention this week. Another source confirms that all three are in agreement that Ailes needs to go.”

    It sure sounds like the Murdochs are actively debating whether or not to dump Ailes during the GOP’s convention or after. And if it’s after the convention, it’s likely shortly after since it’s clear that they’ve recognized the potential poison Ailes’s serial harassment presents for the Fox News brand during a critical election year.

    So one of the most influential and destructive media institutions in the US is potentially about to experience a brain transplant. Maybe this week, maybe a little later. But it’s apparently going to happen some time between now and the elections. It’s an interesting timing condundrum. Is it better to hold off with the high-profile firings and hope it doesn’t become a story during the GOP’s big week or try to get out ahead of a story that risks depicting Fox News as a sexual predator playground and announce Ailes’s departure now? It’s a pretty big question and the Murdochs need to answer it soon.

    There’s also the question of what’s next for Roger Ailes. It would probably be a good excuse to creep back into the shadows and leave the future-destroying activities to the next generation. But who knows. The Donald seems like like Roger and didn’t hesitate to defend him when these charges came out so maybe Trump will help him find a new Fox News-ish project to work on.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 18, 2016, 2:48 pm
  15. Woah! Reports on Roger Ailes’s status as the head of Fox News are making it clear that he’s going to be riding the golden parachute sooner rather than later. But here’s the latest twist: If Ailes leaves, three of the four prime time hosts, Greta van Susteren, Bill O’Reilly, and Sean Hannity, are threatening to walk too. And that just leaves Megyn Kelly as the only remaining prime time host if the rest leave. Might she join them in their walkout threat? Probably not since Roger Ailes reportedly sexually harassed her too.

    So as big a potential shakeup as Ailes leaving could be for Fox News, an institution he built from the ground up, his leaving could end up making a much bigger impact on the network thanks to a top talent Ailes solidarity movement:

    The Financial Times

    Murdochs push for Ailes to leave Fox News

    Presenters could depart with network’s chief as sexual harassment claims mount

    by: Matthew Garrahan and Anna Nicolaou
    7/19/2016

    Roger Ailes is heading for the exit at Fox News Channel, the cable network beloved by American conservatives, with Rupert Murdoch and his sons in agreement that he should leave amid allegations of sexual harassment.

    The timing and terms of the departure of the man who turned Fox News into a media and political powerhouse were unclear on Tuesday evening. Mr Murdoch, executive chairman of 21st Century Fox, the channel’s parent company, and Lachlan, his older son and co-chairman, would prefer to wait until after this week’s Republican convention, two people briefed on the matter told the Financial Times.

    James Murdoch, Mr Murdoch’s younger son and chief executive, was pushing for Mr Ailes to go as soon as possible, those people said.

    Late on Tuesday, the Drudge Report website said Mr Ailes had left Fox News with a $40m severance package. 21st Century Fox denied the report in a tweeted statement, saying: “Roger is at work. The review is ongoing. The only agreement that is in place is his existing employment agreement.”

    Mr Ailes’ lawyer, Susan Estrich, told the Hollywood Reporter: “I’m not going to say it wasn’t somebody’s draft. All I can say is it doesn’t reflect the state of play at this time.” In 2012, the last year for which Mr Ailes’ pay was disclosed in the company’s proxy filing, he earned $21m, including a $5m salary.

    In a story set for its front page, the Murdoch-owned New York Post reported that Mr Ailes was out as chairman as of Tuesday night, citing sources.

    The likely departure of the former aide to Richard Nixon who defied the odds when he launched Fox News 20 years ago could present a big problem for the Murdochs. Three of Fox News’ biggest stars — Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and Greta Van Susteren — have clauses in their contracts that would allow them to depart if Mr Ailes were to leave the network, the two people briefed on the dispute said.

    This means a core team of on-air talent could follow Mr Ailes out the door.

    Mr O’Reilly said in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter last year that he had “no idea how the network would shake out if he [Roger Ailes] wasn’t here.”

    Mr Ailes has told associates he is furious at his treatment by the Murdochs. 21st Century Fox opened an internal investigation into him on July 6, after Gretchen Carlson, a former news anchor, filed a lawsuit alleging that he fired her after 11 years for refusing to have a sexual relationship with him.

    Mr Ailes has denied Ms Carlson’s claims and pushed to move the case into confidential arbitration.

    The executive’s downfall comes a year after he signed a fresh multiyear contract with Fox, at which time Rupert Murdoch said: “Lachlan, James and I are delighted that Roger will be leading key businesses for us and our shareholders for years to come, and he has our unwavering support.”

    In another blow to Mr Ailes, New York magazine reported on Tuesday that Megyn Kelly, arguably Fox News’ biggest star, told lawyers leading the internal investigation that Mr Ailes had sexually harassed her a decade ago.

    Ms Estrich denied the report. “Roger Ailes has never sexually harassed Megyn Kelly,” she said. “In fact, he has spent much of the last decade promoting and helping her to achieve the stardom she earned, for which she has repeatedly and publicly thanked him.”

    The departure of Mr Ailes could have an impact on the Republican party. Supremely well connected, he has helped shape the Republican agenda for more than a decade. His channel’s blend of news and blistering opinion from its roster of primetime hosts has made it a must-watch for conservative voters, and an important outlet for candidates hoping to reach the base of the party.

    The power struggle over Fox News will be closely watched by investors in 21st Century Fox, with the network contributing about a fifth of the group’s annual net income.

    Mr Ailes built Fox into the most watched and most profitable cable news network in the US. It has trounced CNN in the ratings for more than a decade, making it a must-have channel for cable distributors and allowing it to report $1.5bn in profits last year — nearly four times that of CNN, according to SNL Financial.

    “The departure of Mr Ailes could have an impact on the Republican party. Supremely well connected, he has helped shape the Republican agenda for more than a decade. His channel’s blend of news and blistering opinion from its roster of primetime hosts has made it a must-watch for conservative voters, and an important outlet for candidates hoping to reach the base of the party.”

    Yeah, it’s hard to see how the retirement of the Wizard of Oz of right-wing propaganda over the past two decades isn’t going to impact the Republican Party. Especially since it’s been the right-wing ‘infotainment’ industry that has probably done more to radicalize US conservatives, and in turn radicalize GOP elected officials, than any other force on the planet. Donald Trump might be a master as poking and prodding the GOP base’s id but let’s not forget who the master has been at shaping that id. Roger Ailes will be missed. Fortunately he will be missed by all the wrong people.

    Keep in mind that, if Trump loses and Ailes’s leaving results in a larger loss of core Fox talent, it would be a good opportunity for the Murdoch kids to reorient the network on a hopefully saner path. But that can only happen if the audience is willing to follow Fox down that path and it’s really not clear that’s the case when you consider the role the grass roots right-wing audience has played in fueling the rise of the Trump phenomena. At the same time, if there’s a loss of talent and Trump wins, that would be an opportune time to turn the network basically into Trump TV. More so.

    Lots of twists and turns clearly await the Fox News family in the post-Ailes-era. Hopefully that era involves less systemic sexual harassment.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 20, 2016, 2:00 pm
  16. Trouble in Paradise? It looks like it, but given that it’s a troubling paradise of damaging disinformation, the trouble is less than troubling:

    The New York Times

    After Ailes’s Departure, a Stony Silence at Fox

    By MICHAEL M. GRYNBAUM and EMILY STEEL
    JULY 27, 2016

    PHILADELPHIA — The Fox News skybox here turns into a hive of activity as the network’s star anchors analyze the Democratic National Convention for millions of viewers.

    When the cameras blink off, however, the banter has been replaced by something rarely heard in the television news business: silence.

    Megyn Kelly and her co-hosts, including Bret Baier and Brit Hume, have not been speaking during commercial breaks, according to two people with direct knowledge of the anchors’ interactions, who described the on-set atmosphere at Fox News as icy. During ads, the hosts are often absorbed with their smartphones.

    Even as Fox News goes about broadcasting as usual, scoring its highest convention ratings in 20 years, interviews this week with network employees show an organization grappling with internal division after the abrupt exit of Roger Ailes, the once-omnipotent chairman at the center of a sexual harassment investigation.

    Nearly a dozen Fox News employees, who work in front of and behind the camera, were granted anonymity to speak candidly about highly sensitive matters inside a network where privacy is still prized.

    The hosts’ on-set interactions have improved slightly since last week’s shows at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, which were broadcast immediately after Mr. Ailes’s departure.

    Still, employees say there is a continuing split inside the network, with one camp of old-guard Fox News loyalists — some of whom owe their careers to Mr. Ailes — upset at his ouster. Some are resentful toward Ms. Kelly for cooperating with lawyers brought in by the network’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, to investigate Mr. Ailes’s behavior. (About a dozen women have reported improper behavior by Mr. Ailes to investigators.)

    Another contingent inside Fox News is equally dismayed by the responses of stars like Kimberly Guilfoyle, Greta Van Susteren and Jeanine Pirro, who were quick to publicly defend Mr. Ailes after he was accused of harassment in a suit filed by the former anchor Gretchen Carlson.

    Ms. Kelly has told colleagues that she was disappointed with those who stepped forward to vouch for Mr. Ailes before knowing the full extent of the allegations against him. Some of her colleagues have also spoken out, including the Fox contributor Kirsten Powers and the meteorologist Janice Dean, who praised Ms. Kelly on Facebook, writing: “Strong women stand up for themselves. Stronger women stand up for others.”

    Mr. Hume, the anchor, wrote in an email on Wednesday that any reports of tension between himself and Ms. Kelly were exaggerated.

    “Yes, I am upset about Roger’s departure. I love the guy,” Mr. Hume wrote.

    “I don’t think this episode was about political correctness,” he added. “And I think Megyn Kelly did what she felt she had to do, and I am not upset with her.”

    Looming over the Fox News operations is a battle for succession to Mr. Ailes, who over 20 years established his position as one of the most powerful in television. And dozens of the network’s major stars and executives have been on the road for convention coverage since before Mr. Ailes resigned, forced to keep up from afar with career-changing developments at corporate headquarters in Manhattan.

    “There’s no doubt this has been a challenging time,” Rupert Murdoch, the network’s new chairman and media mogul, who started Fox News with Mr. Ailes, wrote in a memo to the staff on Tuesday, in an attempt to bolster morale. Internally, Mr. Murdoch has signaled that he is in no rush to name a successor, and as acting chief executive he plans to be closely involved with the newsroom; the process for a replacement could take months, a person briefed on the plans said on Wednesday.

    “Megyn Kelly and her co-hosts, including Bret Baier and Brit Hume, have not been speaking during commercial breaks, according to two people with direct knowledge of the anchors’ interactions, who described the on-set atmosphere at Fox News as icy. During ads, the hosts are often absorbed with their smartphones.”

    Keep in mind that the New York Times recently reported that the sexual harassment at Fox News went way beyond Roger Ailes. So while there’s undoubtedly hurt feelings over the different responses to the charges and Ailes and his eventual firing, it’s very possible that there are A LOT of unresolved harassment issues involving others in management, or maybe the on-air talent. At this point we just know that there are allegations that it wasn’t just Ailes doing the harassing but only Ailes has left.

    Whether or not there’s another round of harassment charges and if Fox News can avoid an internal talent implosion at that point is going to be one of the more interesting things to watch as post-Ailes Fox News takes shape. Either way, someone had better find a way to comfort Bill O’Reilly soon because he’s not taking the heat very well:

    Talking Points Memo Livewire

    O’Reilly Melts Down Over Criticism Of His Comments On ‘Well Fed’ Slaves

    By Caitlin MacNeal
    Published July 28, 2016, 7:53 AM EDT

    Fox News host Bill O’Reilly on Wednesday night defended his comments from earlier this week that the slaves who helped build the White House were “well fed,” lashing out against his critics.

    During his show on Wednesday night, O’Reilly said that his comments on the slaves who helped build the White House were “100 percent accurate” and provided “context” to First Lady Michelle Obama’s speech at the Democratic convention. He said that it was “not a defense of slavery.”

    “For doing that, I was immediately attacked by smear merchants,” he said. “It is a given that slavery is an abomination, but reporting the story behind Mrs. Obama’s very valid points does not diminish the horror of enslavement as these dishonest critics allege.”

    He then brought on fellow Fox News personalities Geraldo Rivera and Eric Bolling to discuss the topic. O’Reilly said that Fox News hosts need to work harder to defend themselves.

    “I think the time has come now, where this whole network is going to have to band together, all of us, and we’re going to have to call out the people who are actively trying to destroy this network, by using lies and deception and propaganda. We’re going to have to start to call them out by name, because that’s how bad it’s become,” he said.

    Rivera then mentioned an encounter he had with protesters outside of the Democratic convention in Philadelphia, when a protester dumped water on Rivera’s head. Rivera mentioned Black Lives Matter and noted that many in the group are “reasonable and responsible,” but he said others are “race warriors” who want to pit white people against black people.

    O’Reilly, responded, telling Rivera that “it’s getting to the point of danger,” arguing that it’s tough for Fox News reporters to go out in the field.

    “Jesse Watters goes on the floor of the Democratic convention, and some photographer comes up and starts swearing at him and cursing at him right in his face? This is provocation,” he continued. “These people are doing this. They want me dead, Bolling, literally dead.”

    Bolling responded to O’Reilly, “I’m not sure they want you dead.”

    “Oh they do, believe me,” O’Reilly said.

    “I think the time has come now, where this whole network is going to have to band together, all of us, and we’re going to have to call out the people who are actively trying to destroy this network, by using lies and deception and propaganda. We’re going to have to start to call them out by name, because that’s how bad it’s become,” he said.

    Yeah, Fox News has had better days, although with Ailes gone and no longer able to sexually extort his employees this is arguably the best days Fox News has ever had. Same old poison over the airways, but with less behind-the-scenes harassment. It’s definitely an improvement!

    Still, considering that Bill O’Reilly is freaking out about a conspiracy to kill the network and blabbering about people wanting him dead too, it’s hard to ignore the possibility that Fox News really could be on the verge of a major exodus of their on-air talent as a consequence of a now-poisoned corporate atmosphere. In other words, Roger Ailes’s fan club at Fox News might need to go too if the network can really get past this scandal and un-poison the corporate atmosphere. And if that happens, Fox News could be a different network a few years from now because that could involve a lot of the networks most popular, long-standing talent. Ailes wasn’t the only one who “built Fox News”. Sure, it would most likely still be a reactionary far right force dedicated to emotionally manipulating its audience and promoting ignorance and confusion. But maybe, hopefully, the post-Ailes Fox News could be a little less dedicated to emotionally manipulating its audience and promoting ignorance and confusion.

    So we’ll see what becomes of Fox News. But if it does moderate itself, even just a bit, that also raises the question of whether or not the network’s loyal audience would remain loyal. Because it’s not like Fox News is the only far right network out there for people to watch. So let’s assume the popular talking heads like O’Reilly retire and get replaced with people that don’t quite have his appeal to Fox’s audience. Where do all those viewers go? Glenn Beck’s BlazeTV would be one option. TrumpTV, if it becomes a real thing, could be another destination.

    But as the article below makes clear, if conservative viewers lose faith in or sour on their right-wing TV outlet of choice, Fox News, there’s one growing media empire that should be exceptionally well positioned to pick up new conservative viewers in the age of Trump: Alex Jones’s media empire:

    The New Republic

    At Trump’s Coronation, Alex Jones Is King
    In Cleveland, the master far-right conspiracist has emerged as a national force behind the rise of Trump. But he’s still not sure about the guy.

    By Alexander Zaitchik
    July 21, 2016

    A few hours into Monday’s big “America First” rally for Donald Trump in Cleveland, the Alex Jones entourage arrived in an old beige tour bus. Jones’s security detail, expanded for the convention, emerged from the bus first, scanning for threats to their stocky Texan boss, who’d just scored the week’s first viral media hit with a recorded waylay of Karl Rove at the Dallas airport. The Rove clip was a classic Jones ambush, the kind he’s been staging and sharing since the days of VHS tapes and padded-envelopes.

    Most of the Jones fans packed into the rally were in diapers during Jones’s long, lonely pre-Internet career. It’s the YouTube-era celebrity Jones they know and love; not a few drove hundreds of miles to hear him speak, and only incidentally to cheer for Trump.  The king of conspiracy—equal parts comic performance artist and right-populist provocateur—did not disappoint. Bounding onstage in sunglasses and a dark blazer, he greeted the crowd with thunderbolts from throat muscles forged over years of screaming into bullhorns until his spittle turned red. (The result is a vocal instrument unique to the annals of broadcasting, as if the recombinant seed of Sam Kenison and Lemmy had fertilized and given power of speech to a junkyard cement truck.) Set to burst-fire mode, Jones began to rant and preach, a hybrid oratory for which The Alex Jones Show, the massively popular radio program that anchors Infowars, his swelling media empire, serves as a running master class.

    “These people are not liberals,” he yelled, referencing the officials who’d rescinded his permit to fly a “Hillary for Prison” banner over Cleveland throughout the convention. Rather:

    They are anti-freedom SCUM who need to get their ASS to North KOREA! We’re identifying the globalists, their program of control, their operations. Once the public understands the paradigm: IT’S! GAME! OVER! Globalism and the New World Order are in trouble. Foreign, multinational, anti-free market corporations funding gun control and open borders—these are the people conquering us. YOU are the resistance! The American IDEA is the answer to the globalist program of enslavement and worldwide tyranny. The answer to 1984 is SE-VEN-TEEN SE-VEN-TY SIX!

    All of this is greatest-hits familiar to anyone who knows Jones from 1996 or 2006. Like the morning’s guerilla-video attack on Karl Rove, the language and delivery was so familiar you could forget this was the Twilight Zone Cleveland of 2016. Birds chirp, the mailman walks his route, Cleveland’s city fathers hang welcome signs touting the location of the world’s first electric traffic signal. But then, without adjusting your picture, Karl Rove arrives a scorned and neutered dissident from a gone world, while Alex Jones, the father of 9/11 Truth and the punk jester-theorist of a New World Order master conspiracy involving DMT clockwork elves, receives a hero’s welcome at the kick-off rally for the Republican nominee. A nominee that, Jones believes, is one of his own.

    “There’s no way the Trump people would have reached out to me a year and a half ago, if he wasn’t aware of the work,” Jones would tell me later in the week. “He’s been what you call a ‘closet conspiracy theorist’ for 50 years. I think he’s been a chameleon in the system, and now he sees the time to strike.”

    When I pressed for details about the Trump outreach, Jones clammed up. (Trump guested on his radio show last December, but hasn’t been a regular.) But aside from the kinship of their conspiratorial world views, the human conduit between he and Trump is clear enough: Roger Stone, Jones’s friend and frequent Infowars guest, is the former Nixon dirty-trickster-turned-Trump confidant and unofficial campaign adviser.

    Over the past several months, Jones and his company have emerged as key wingmen in Trump’s strike formation, amplifying the campaign’s themes and weaponizing Trump’s attacks on “Crooked Hillary.” Jones’s team hatched and promoted the “Hillary for Prison” design meme that went wildfire and now dominates Trump campaign culture, from parking-lot merch to convention-floor chants. (In 2009, Infowars’s meme division also released the “Obama Joker” into the Tea Party scene, adding a haunting modern image to what had been a sea of Gadsden flags.)

    A pioneer in the use of targeted searches to manipulate Google algorithms, Jones has enlisted his audience to send “Hillary for Prison” to the top of Google’s U.S. search list, sometimes beating out competition like “Brexit” and “Pokemon Go.” For the general election, Jones is planning to fly the phrase over cities from coast to coast. But based on the number of T-shirts on view this week in Cleveland, who needs airplanes? At Monday’s rally, Stone noted with amused awe the sea of “Hillary for Prison” apparel stretched out before him. “Just look at them all,” he marveled.

    Stone and several other speakers on Monday tipped their hats to Jones, sometimes effusively. But it was the offhand comment of a man from Veterans for Trump that stopped me. “Alex Jones,” he said, “is the voice of this whole thing.”

    By “whole thing,” he meant the Trump insurgency. Nobody challenged the veteran when he said it, because he was right, or more right than wrong.

    Donald Trump may be the candidate—older, richer, and more famous than Jones, a self-made impresario who never considered leaving his home base of Austin. But many in Cleveland would see Jones as the senior partner in his relationship with Trump—not just the full-throttle “voice” of Trump’s America First conservatism, but also its father and most savvy marketer. Trump may have concocted his current persona only after trial-ballooning lines on the Tea Party circuit. But there is abundant recorded evidence that Alex Jones has been screaming about globalist goblins and Bush family treason since he was a teenager reading John Birch Society literature in the hallways of Austin Public Access Television.

    In Cleveland, Jones and his multi-platform media company have emerged as a national political and cultural force. Infowars, the consummate outsider media company, has converged with an outsider presidential campaign running historically low on tech-savvy and media friends. This convergence, underway for months, has been obscured by the smoke and flash of Trump’s skirmishes with institutions like the Washington Post. But it’s possible the scolding of editors and columnists at our oldest newspapers matter less for Trump’s chances in November than an online conspiracy news-and-entertainment juggernaut with a staff of 60 and an Alexandrian YouTube archive of America First seminars that is fast approaching one billion views.

    I first met Jones six years ago in his native Austin, where he is broadly appreciated as a link to the lost world of “Austin Weird,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ld_smuYyM24whose institutions included the Public Access TV channel where Jones cut his broadcasting teeth. Until this week, I never expected to see Jones draw Austin levels of celebrity on the streets of any other city. But he could barely take a step in Cleveland without being recognized and stopped. If he sat down at a bar, the first fan would appear in seconds with a pen. His security team dissuaded those who might’ve liked to approach him with something sharper and more knife-shaped.

    On Wednesday, two days after the rally by the river, I visited Jones at his downtown hotel, across from the tall security fence stretching for blocks around the Quicken Loans Arena. The prior afternoon, Jones scored his his second viral hit of the week when he led his crew, bullhorn in hand, into the center of a park dense with anti-Trump protestors. When Jones tried to climb atop a statue to address the crowd, a few nearby protestors screamed “Nazi Scum” and grabbed him, initiating a confusing tussle quickly ended by nearby police. Within an hour the video went up on Infowars: “Epic Alex Jones Attack Caught On Camera!”

    When the elevator opened in the lobby, a dour Dinesh D’souza brushed passed me, just off his Alex Jones Show interview promoting his first foray into conspiracy film. I arrived in Jones’s suite as he was wrapping up the day’s broadcast in the radio studio he’d set up in the main room facing the security fence across the street. A wall-length black Infowars banner hung behind him; the table was covered by two flags, a Gadsden and the City of Austin.

    I tell Jones it’s hard to imagine him sitting on radio row with a lanyard around his neck, but if Trump gets elected, his fans may expect him to realize the until-recently unimaginable spectacle of Alex Jones delivering a rant in the White House Briefing Room. It seemed the thought hadn’t yet occurred to him, and considering it now, it didn’t please him.

    “If Trump gets in and starts going sideways, if he doesn’t start doing better trade deals, then yes, I’d want that pass, because I’m coming out against him,” said Jones. “But I don’t care about going to the White House and getting patted on the head by Donald Trump. I always want to be on the outside. That’s where freedom is. It’s boring being around neurotic guys in suits trying to one up each other. Those aren’t fun people.”

    A feeling of kinship with Trump’s outsider success is a major part of what initially drew Jones to the campaign. “I’ve never seen the whole establishment lined up against somebody,” Jones said. “That’s not fake.” Indeed, there are loose parallels in the way both men have been scorned and dismissed for decades by educated upper-middle class gatekeepers, and earned fierce, cult-like followings from working class men and women who see an absence of edifice and condescension in them. Trump fans and Jones fans often sound identical when describing their heroes: they talk straight; they’re real; they don’t care what anybody thinks; they’re a fuc kin’ riot. It’s no surprise that being a fan of Jones leads to Trump—and vice-versa.

    There’s also the overlap in style, which is angry, and the central message, which is elites have been systematically screwing you and your family for a long time. In the case of Jones, this broad populist starting point can morph into a baroque comic fantasy of demonic philanthropic foundations, 100-year eugenics ops, and the occasional unseen dimension. Off the air, Jones is a lot less manic, and you get the sense that his conspiracies are not served for literal consumption, but rather to be taken the way Jones understands most of Trump’s extreme proposals. “The border wall is just a metaphor,” he said. “It’s ridiculous.” (Jones, who has spent a life railing against a coming police state, has a harder time squaring Trump’s support for torture. “They never stopped doing it,” he said. “But I don’t support it.”)

    One aspect of Trump’s neo-isolationist foreign policy sends Jones’s reasoning away from complexity and toward the most basic thing imaginable: a desire to not die in a nuclear war. In our interview, Jones returned repeatedly to the subject of Hillary Clinton’s itchy button-finger.

    “Donald Trump doesn’t want war with the Russians,” Jones said. “Donald Trump wants to be on his big golden yachts and airplanes. He’s not crazy. He wants his hot wife and his golf courses. And that’s great. Me, I’m gonna be hanging out by the pool with my kids, and taking them to plays, and seeing my grandma, and we can all not die together in a nuclear war. I don’t know how anybody could not support Trump, if only because he doesn’t want nuclear war.”

    Jones has bet the house that Trump will do more than just walk us back from WWIII with Russia. Jones now lists Trump as among the members of an exclusive truth-telling pantheon, including Matt Drudge, Ron Paul, and himself. His enthusiasm is matched by a rotating bevy of other pro-Trump voices in the Infowars galaxy, notably frequent guest Roger Stone. On air, Jones is usually guarded about his doubts. But he admits the possibility that Trump could turn out to be a bust in the fight against the New World Order tyranny.

    “Donald Trump is either George Washington Part II, or he’s The Joker,” said Jones. “I think he’s for real. The danger is Trump can discredit the movement if he doesn’t try to deliver. He doesn’t have to deliver. He has to die trying.”

    He went on: “Whether he’s a real-deal populist or not, people are going for him because he says he is. True populism is rising and it’s only going to get bigger. Look at Brexit. Look at Europe. There’s anger at a globalism where big banks make secret rules. It’s going to be a long fight, but once the shadow government of the ultra rich is identified, and people see how they sow up the game and use socialism to control us and keep us poor, then it’s over. The New Royalty falls.”

    He’s rolling now. “We should get rid of NATO. Let’s use the money to build stuff. The globalists always promised us this loving world government, but all they’re doing is selling weapons and trying to blow the planet up. They’ve had their time. They’re done. It’s time to have Lord Monckton, Nigel Farage, and Donald Trump set up a democratic system where countries can openly vote on agreements. And then we can build space stations and shit. Behind the scenes, that’s what Donald Trump wants to do.”

    I’m trying to imagine one how one American and two Brits could set up a new global system when one of Jones’s producers mentions he spotted Nigel Farage, the Brexit-monger, on the street that morning in Cleveland with Daily Caller editor Tucker Carlson. “He must be keeping his trip quiet on purpose, or he’d be doing interviews,” Jones mused. I tell Jones that a cameo by Tucker Carlson’s college-aged son at the Monday rally surprised me, and that I thought Tucker Carlson wouldn’t be caught within a mile of an Infowars event. “Tucker’s come a long way,” said Jones. “He’s been getting more hardcore.”

    If more media figures who once shunned Jones start getting “hardcore,” it could be a genuine change of heart, or it could be them trying to catch up with and imitate Jones’s success. At a time when many talk radio hosts are losing audience, Jones is gaining. Infowars.com gets around 40 million unique visitors a month, with a video stream drawing around a quarter of that number. Many come to Infowars after spotting a random video from Jones’s vast archive of search-optimized YouTube clips. Of the more than 800 million views this archive has racked up over the last decade, 300 million have occurred at a quickening pace in the last year-and-a-half. The rise of Trump has been a boon, just as the rise of Jones has boosted Trump. Jones has gone big-time, if not exactly mainstream. And it’s a queasy place for him to be. When asked about the traffic numbers provided by Jones’s staff, he seems embarrassed by the success.

    “What I do is not hard,” he said. “Anybody with an education in history could do it. Infowars is exploding because of the climate we’re in.”

    Whatever the cause of the mushrooming traffic, Jones’s ongoing expansion toward a self-contained, around-the-clock media universe can only be good news for the Trump campaign. The more baited lines Infowars has floating around the Internet, the more voters it will produce for the Republican nominess. Just ask the hundreds of (mostly) young men who answered Alex Jones’s call to converge on Cleveland.

    “Stone and several other speakers on Monday tipped their hats to Jones, sometimes effusively. But it was the offhand comment of a man from Veterans for Trump that stopped me. “Alex Jones,” he said, “is the voice of this whole thing.”

    And that’s something we can’t forget when speculating on the future direction of not just Fox News but the conservative movement in the US in general: while the Trump political strategy clearly borrows a lot from strongman figures like Benito Mussolini, it’s also a variant of the Alex Jones shtick. It’s a hybrid act. So if Trump wins, it’s sort of like Alex Jones became president. But if Trump loses, and if we assume that Trump will remain an influential force in the conservative media, it also makes sense that Alex Jones’s shows and others like it would have even great appeal during a Hillary Clinton presidency.

    So don’t be super surprise if Fox News suddenly has a talent exodus and the conservative media gets a big shakeup soon. But also don’t be surprised if Alex Jones is one of the main beneficiaries of that shakeup. Uh oh.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 28, 2016, 3:38 pm
  17. Here’s the latest, and most detailed personal testimony from a victim of Roger Ailes’s predatory behavior. Part of what makes this particular story so disturbing is that it starts off with Ailes grooming the victim, Lauri Luhn, as his sexual plaything (in exchange for cash and jobs), but eventually Ailes promotes Luhn to a role at Fox News where her job was to find other young attractive women for Ailes to victimize.

    And similar to some of the previous accounts of Ailes’s m.o., Ailes filmed Luhn in compromising situations, making it clear that the video would go into a safe-deposit box, “just so we understand each other.” He then informed her that she had to do everything he requested of her using some sort of weird hypnosis-like technique. Who knows if he actually kept the video or that was just something he would tell his victims as part of some psychological domination methodology he’s honed over the decades. Either way, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the man who created Fox News, a network almost designed to induce Stockholm Syndrome in its audience, appears to have a shocking amount of personal experience at inducing Stockholm Syndrome in his employees:

    New York Magazine

    Former Fox News Booker Says She Was Sexually Harassed and ‘Psychologically Tortured’ by Roger Ailes for More Than 20 Years

    By Gabriel Sherman

    July 29, 2016 5:03 p.m.

    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.

    Luhn recounted her story this week in 11 hours of interviews at her Los Angeles home, in the presence of a family friend who first heard her accounts in 2010, long before there was any public discussion of Ailes’s alleged harassment of women. Luhn’s struggle with mental illness notwithstanding, New York was able to independently corroborate key details in her account, including that she was sexually involved with Ailes for many years, from sources who worked at Fox at the same time she did. Additionally, I viewed documents Luhn retained, including a copy of the $3.15 million severance agreement she signed in 2011 that includes iron-clad nondisclosure provisions.

    (Ailes’s attorneys Susan Estrich and Barry Asen did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)

    Over the course of the interviews, Luhn alternated between composed, detailed recollections and outbursts of grief, shame, anger, and paranoia. “I’ve always wondered,” she said, “would the truth come out?”

    *

    Luhn said she first met Ailes in the summer of 1988 at the Washington, D.C., headquarters of the George H.W. Bush presidential campaign. She was 28 and single; he was married and approaching 50. She’d moved from Texas to Washington the year before to work as a flight attendant for Continental Airlines, but she quickly became interested in politics. A volunteer job at the Bush campaign phone bank led to a full-time position in the campaign’s accounting department. After seeing Ailes’s political television ads previewed in the office, she decided she wanted to go into political communications. One Saturday morning right before Labor Day, she introduced herself to Ailes in the elevator at the campaign headquarters. “I’m Laurie Luhn, and I got to see the ads. I’d love to learn how to do that,” she recalled saying. A few days later, she said, Ailes called out to her as he walked by her desk: “If there is ever anything I can do for you, let me know.”

    In the fall of 1990, Luhn did call on him for help. She was working on the primary congressional campaign of John Vogt in Central Florida. When it was clear her candidate was going to lose and she would have to return to Washington with no job and mounting bills, she called Ailes in New York at his media consulting company, Ailes Communications.

    Sometime around Thanksgiving, she said, Ailes called her back. He said he was in D.C. and asked if she wanted to come by his Washington office for an interview before he flew home to New York. Luhn brought a copy of her résumé, listing her final title at the Bush campaign: office manager. “Well, we already got an office manager. I don’t really know what you could do,” she recalled Ailes saying. Then, she said, Ailes began asking personal questions: “Where are you from? What is your relationship with your parents like?”

    Luhn said Ailes then asked her for a ride to the airport and offered to take her out to dinner. “I had nothing but bills. I was in a horrible panic. I must have told him that over dinner,” she said. Afterward, she drove him to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. “We pull up and I say, ‘Thank you so much for dinner.’ He leans over and slips me the tongue and kisses me,” she said, “and hands me a wad of cash. ‘Here’s to help you pay some bills,’ he said. It was maybe $200 or $300.” To her at the time, it was a lot of money.

    After that, Luhn said, Ailes called her with an offer: He would put her on what she recalled was a $500 monthly retainer to do “research.” Her first assignment was filing Freedom of Information Act requests on Ailes’s competitors Charlie Black, Paul Manafort, and Roger Stone, the latter two of whom are now advising Trump. The retainer also paid for Luhn to be available to meet Ailes when he was in Washington.

    On the night of January 16, 1991, Ailes was in Washington to prep George H.W. Bush on his Oval Office address to announce the start of the first Gulf War. Ailes and Luhn again met for dinner. According to Luhn, he asked her to go home, watch the speech, and then meet him at the Crystal City Marriott, where he had a suite. By this point, Luhn understood what Ailes expected of her, but she went with him anyway.

    She recalled that, when she walked into the hotel room, Ailes asked her what she thought of Bush’s speech. “I was always very complimentary,” she told me. “I wanted to learn how to do all that. I wanted to learn how to do the ads, how to do the coaching. I wanted to learn how to work with candidates.”

    Luhn put on the black garter and stockings she said Ailes had instructed her to buy; he called it her uniform. Ailes sat on a couch. “Go over there. Dance for me,” she recalled him saying. She hesitated. “Laurie, if you’re gonna be my girl, my eyes and ears, if you are going to be someone I can depend on in Washington, my spy, come on, dance for me,” he said, according to her account. When she started dancing, Ailes got out a video camera. Luhn didn’t want to be filmed, she said, but Ailes was insistent: “I am gonna need you to do better than that.”

    When she had finished dancing, Ailes told her to get down on her knees in front of him, she said, and put his hands on her temples. As she recalled, he began speaking to her slowly and authoritatively, as if he were some kind of Svengali: “Tell me you will do what I tell you to do, when I tell you to do it. At any time, at any place when I call. No matter where I call you, no matter where you are. Do you understand? You will follow orders. If I tell you to put on your uniform, what are you gonna do, Laurie? WHAT ARE YOU GONNA DO, LAURIE?” Then, she recalled, his voice dropped to a whisper: “What are you, Laurie? Are you Roger’s whore? Are you Roger’s spy? Come over here.” Ailes asked her to perform oral sex, she said.

    Later, Ailes showed her the footage of her dancing. She asked him what he intended to do with it and, she says, he replied, “I am going to put it in a safe-deposit box just so we understand each other.”

    After that, Luhn said, she regularly met Ailes in hotels for sexual encounters. He asked her to buy a boom box so she could bring music to dance to. Ailes always left cash for her. A couple of times, while he was advising French politician Jacques Chirac, he gave her francs. “I remember I had to go exchange the money,” Luhn said.

    *

    As Ailes moved from politics to television news, Luhn had hopes of going along with him. In 1993, NBC hired Ailes to be president of CNBC. Ailes dangled the prospect of an on-air job at the financial-news channel. “He played me,” said Luhn. “He says, ‘I’d like you to come read for me, but you’ll have to get rid of your Texas accent.’ That’s how he does it. The job obviously never happened.”

    In the spring of 1996, Ailes recruited Luhn to work on the launch of Fox News. “Rupert is going to pay for this channel. I want to see if you can come,” she said Ailes told her in the lobby of the Crystal City Marriott. A Fox executive called her a few days later and offered her a job as a “guest relations” staffer on Fox News Sunday, the public-affairs program.

    At this point, Luhn could have stayed away from Ailes. She had a job as a legal aide at the lobbying firm Patton Boggs and “was pretty happy,” she recalled. But she chose to go work for him at Fox News. Why would she do this? Luhn’s explanation is that Ailes held her so much in his sway that she couldn’t resist. “I was programmed,” she said. Even today, she said, “sometimes the Stockholm syndrome with Roger slips back, and I am still a little girl trying to impress Daddy Roger.”

    Plus, going to Fox moved her career in a direction she wanted it to go. She thought working with the guests on cable news seemed like a glamorous opportunity. “I loved that job,” she said. “I loved booking. I loved building the contacts and making sure that those guests were going to love the experience they would have at Fox News, that they would want to come back.”

    At first, Luhn didn’t see much of Ailes at Fox. But after the network was up and running, she said, the hotel meetings resumed. Now he began calling her to New York for encounters. They developed a system. She says that Ailes or Fox executive Bill Shine would call then–Washington bureau chief Kim Hume and tell her there was a “booking meeting” in New York that Luhn needed to attend. (Through a spokesperson, Shine confirmed he called Luhn to New York for booking meetings.)

    They met in the afternoons, she said, usually at the DoubleTree in Times Square, sometimes the Renaissance — Fox people preferred the Muse. “It was always the on-my-knees, hold-my-temples routine. There was no affair, no sex, no love,” she said. Ailes continued to give Luhn cash afterward, and she began racking up personal expenses on her Fox News credit card. (Luhn said she always paid the bills back.)

    As she was promoted through the ranks at Fox, Luhn worked harder and harder to please Ailes. She zealously promoted the network’s right-wing agenda. “I was very proud of the product. I was very proud of how we handled 9/11. Very proud of how we handled the run-up to the Iraq War,” she said. “My job was to sell the war. I needed to get people on the air that were attractive and articulate and could convey the importance of this campaign. It was a drumbeat.”

    Luhn said she sensed her colleagues in the Washington bureau gossiped about her frequent trips to New York and treated her suspiciously. She is convinced that many people at Fox News knew about what was going on with Ailes. “They all knew there was quid pro quo,” Luhn recalled. Two former Fox employees confirmed people knew Ailes was involved with Luhn.

    A former colleague in Fox’s Washington bureau said that Luhn was “dysfunctional” at work. “No one knew what the heck she did,” the colleague said. “She was a ‘protected person’ and left alone.”

    Luhn’s relationship with her boss at the time, Washington bureau chief Kim Hume, became strained. Hume threatened to fire her when she submitted an expense report for the DoubleTree hotel, Luhn recalled. “She said, ‘Do you expect me to sign that? I can get you out of here. I’d get you six weeks of severance.’” (Hume did not respond to a request for comment.)

    In 2004, Luhn told Ailes about Hume’s suspicions. Ailes came up with a solution: Luhn got a promotion and a raise, and she would report to Ailes’s deputy Shine. Ailes summoned Luhn to New York to tell her the news, Luhn said. Then he told her to call Hume, from his extension, and inform her that she would no longer be reporting to her. She did, she told me, and Hume hung up. Ailes was sending a message to the bureau chief: Luhn was protected by him. Inside Fox News, Luhn became known as an “FOR” — friend of Roger. After the call, according to Luhn, Ailes turned to her and said, “Now, remember, you’re Doris Day. Go put your uniform on, get over to the DoubleTree, and thank me for this.”

    Around this time, Ailes’s star Bill O’Reilly was accused by a Fox producer named Andrea Mackris of engaging in unwanted phone sex with her. O’Reilly settled with her for a reported $10 million. Despite the obvious risks, Ailes’s sexual demands only grew more intense after he promoted Luhn, she said. On three occasions, twice at the Renaissance and once at the Omni Berkshire, she said, Ailes demanded that she engage in sadomasochistic sex with another woman while he watched. The final such session occurred in the summer of 2005, Luhn recalled. Ailes snapped pictures. Afterward, he left $1,000 on the dresser and invited the two women to a party at Elaine’s on the Upper East Side, Luhn said. “I remember him being there holding court.”

    *

    By 2006, Luhn said, Ailes was regularly demanding phone sex in the office, but the hotel visits had stopped. Instead, said Luhn, Ailes instructed her to recruit young women for him. “You’re going to find me ‘Roger’s Angels.’ You’re going to find me whores,” Luhn recalled Ailes saying on numerous occasions, urging her to send young Fox staffers his way. He had promoted Luhn to director of bookings, which gave her the authority to hire employees. She said she chose women Ailes would be attracted to. “You’re not expected to hire unattractive people,” she said.

    Luhn denied ever setting Ailes up with her staff for explicitly sexual purposes, but she did send them in for private meetings with him where she knew they could be exposed to sexual harassment. One woman who worked for Luhn and spoke only on the condition of anonymity said that Luhn sent her to an after-hours meeting with Ailes in his office. According to this woman’s account, Ailes followed the same pattern he used with Luhn many years before: He asked her about her family and career goals and offered to mentor her — perhaps it would give him “energy.” Ailes also asked about the woman’s shoes, she told me, commenting that “women who like shoes also like lingerie.” He also mentioned that he had advised heads of state with “absolute loyalty and discretion,” so that meant she could “tell [him] everything.” The woman said she found the conversation highly inappropriate and uncomfortable. Ailes tried to hug her and she left the meeting shaken. Months later, Luhn fired the woman. She hired a lawyer and signed a settlement with Fox.

    Meanwhile, Luhn’s emotional condition worsened. In the winter of 2007, Ailes removed her from the booking department and moved her to event planning, in what was essentially a no-show job. A high-ranking Fox source close to Ailes confirmed that Ailes promoted Luhn into “fake jobs” to keep her “in the tent.”

    In late 2010 or early 2011, Luhn said, she wrote a letter to Fox lawyer Dianne Brandi saying she had been sexually harassed by Ailes for 20 years. Brandi did not acknowledge receipt of the letter, but, according to a source, she asked Ailes about the sexual-harassment allegations, which he vehemently denied. Ailes, according to the source, told Brandi to work out a settlement. Luhn hired an attorney to negotiate her exit from Fox.

    Through a spokesperson, Brandi declined to comment.

    On June 15, 2011, Luhn and Brandi signed a $3.15 million settlement agreement with extensive nondisclosure provisions. The settlement document, which Luhn showed me, bars her from going to court against Fox for the rest of her life. It also precludes her from speaking to government authorities like the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the FBI. Not to mention the press. Aware that speaking with New York on the record could pose legal risks, Luhn was insistent that she wanted to tell her story. “The truth shall set you free. Nothing else matters,” she told me. Her family friend also said this is what Luhn wanted.

    Last summer, Luhn moved back to Los Angeles from San Antonio. Unemployed and unsure of what to do, she sent Roger Ailes a letter. She shared a copy with me:

    Roger,

    Last week, as I was walking on the beautiful Santa Monica Beach and pondering my future, I wondered how you would advise me. Since you were my mentor for so many years, it still feels strange when I am unable to consult you…

    While I believe forgiveness is very important all the way around, especially if I am to convey that I have moved past the sadness of 2011, I also believe some context and background would be helpful for you to better understand your former protégé at this time.

    The past few years have not been easy. Bill Shine sent me to a San Antonio psychiatrist…It was a true nightmare. What I really needed was sleep, and maybe some sort of counseling. Instead, what I got was a doctor who immediately prescribed very dangerous, serious meds. Those drugs made me hallucinate for over a year….You had always said to stay away from meds…It was an extremely frightening ordeal. A woman with a normal brain should not be given serious medication meant for sick people. The only reason I finally got off the drugs was due to an overdose. When my head finally cleared, it was like waking up from a very long, confusing dream.

    Sadly, I realized that I’d lost a year and a half of my life. Fortunately, I got some counseling from a competent person who recognized the turmoil I’d experienced. It was a long road to good health, but, by the grace of God, I got there.

    Roger, I still want a chance to live a happy, meaningful life filled with kind, interesting people. You gave me the opportunity to work in television news and event planning. I loved working at Fox until the rumors and malicious gossip made it truly unbearable. I endured a great deal. That’s the part that I cannot discuss with your lieutenants. They do not know or are in a position to understand.

    The generous financial compensation I received from Fox made the healing possible. I was able to spend time with some people who actually cared about me. For that, I thank you very much. I am deeply grateful….You are in a unique position. I believe that you understand me, and you are also able to recognize my predicament. I need a job in LA. I am asking for your help. Please help me Roger. I have been a good soldier…

    A UPS tracking number Luhn provided indicates that the letter was received by the Fox mailroom. Luhn said she never heard from Ailes after she sent it, but did get a call from Brandi, who asked her, “Are you trying to do something to Roger? What is this?” (Brandi did not respond to three requests for comment.)

    Luhn continues to struggle with intense periods of anxiety and paranoia. After calling Paul, Weiss last Friday, she sent an email late the following night to Michele Hirshman, the partner leading the 21st Century Fox investigation, expressing panic. The subject line read “Security”: “Michele, my situation has become more serious. The stalking and intimidation was far worse today. I believe my entire house is wired. They are both monitoring and trying to scare me.” (Hirshman did not respond to requests for comment.)

    Luhn seems to understand that messages like these do not help her case, that this, coupled with her bouts of mental illness, could make her seem like an unreliable narrator. But the credibility of her account is supported by, among other things, the fact that Fox News paid her millions of dollars to prevent her from telling it. “I am reporting sexual harassment,” she told me. “Whether I am a crazy person or not, I am reporting sexual harassment.”

    “By 2006, Luhn said, Ailes was regularly demanding phone sex in the office, but the hotel visits had stopped. Instead, said Luhn, Ailes instructed her to recruit young women for him. “You’re going to find me ‘Roger’s Angels.’ You’re going to find me whores,” Luhn recalled Ailes saying on numerous occasions, urging her to send young Fox staffers his way. He had promoted Luhn to director of bookings, which gave her the authority to hire employees. She said she chose women Ailes would be attracted to. “You’re not expected to hire unattractive people,” she said.

    We’ll see how far the investigation into Ailes’s alleged predatory behavior goes but it sure doesn’t sound like Laurie Luhn’s personal testimony is going to be the last one of this nature to come out.

    And in other news…

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 2, 2016, 2:45 pm
  18. With Roger Ailes and Fox News facing a seemingly endless wave of sexual harassment accusations back decades, one of the obvious questions raised by the scandal is how such an influential and notable person like Ailes could get away with this kind of predatory behavior for so long. And while corporate culture no doubt played a role, the ‘black-room’ of staff dedicated to investigating and smearing Ailes’s enemies probably had something to do with his predatory success:

    New York Magazine
    Daily Intelligencer

    Roger Ailes Used Fox News Budget to Finance ‘Black-Room’ Campaigns Against His Enemies

    By Gabriel Sherman

    August 7, 2016 6:30 a.m.

    As Rupert Murdoch seeks to stabilize Fox News in the wake of Roger Ailes’s ouster, a crucial question remains unanswered: How was Ailes able to spend millions of dollars to settle sexual-harassment claims without setting off alarm bells?

    According to three highly placed sources, part of the answer is that there were few checks on Ailes when it came to the Fox News budget. “It was the culture,” one Fox executive said. “You didn’t ask questions, and Roger wouldn’t entertain questions.” One former News Corp executive explained that because Fox made more than $1 billion in annual profits, the funds that were used for settlements amounted to little more than “a rounding error.”

    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 who 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, 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.”)

    Targets of the campaigns included journalists John Cook and Hamilton Nolan, who have aggressively covered Ailes for Gawker. According to one source, private detectives followed Cook around his Brooklyn neighborhood, and Fox operatives prepared a report on him with information they intended to leak to blogs. (According to the source, one proposed line of attack claimed that Cook — whose wife, Slate news director Allison Benedikt, is Jewish — was anti-Semitic.) “I’m honored to be among Roger Ailes’s enemies,” Cook said.

    Fox operatives also targeted Joe Lindsley, the former editor of Ailes’s local newspaper, the Putnam County News and Recorder. In April 2011, Lindsley had a falling-out with Ailes and quit the paper, along with two co-workers. Ailes assigned private investigators to follow Lindsley around Putnam County. He also asked Fox host Andrea Tantaros, whom Ailes had once seated next to Lindsley at a dinner party at Ailes’s home, to contact Lindsley and report back on his whereabouts, two sources said. Meanwhile, Solivan posted negative comments about Lindsley on blogs, a source said.

    I was also the target of an operation, a source told me: In 2012, while I was researching a biography of Ailes, Fox operatives set up webpages to attack my reputation, and Fox funds paid for Google search ads against my name that linked to the sites. One source also said private investigators employed by Fox contributor Bo Dietl were instructed to follow me and my wife. (Dietl’s firm was used to track Andrea Mackris, the producer who accused Bill O’Reilly of sexual harassment in 2004, the source said.) When reached by phone, Dietl said, “I have no real comments. I love Roger Ailes. He built one of the great news channels out of nothing. He’s a very successful guy.”

    The allegations about Ailes’s questionable use of Fox resources raise the issue of how much other high-ranking officials knew about his activities. Fox News CFO Mark Kranz, for instance, approved budget expenditures throughout this period, and general counsel Dianne Brandi approved contracts. Through a spokesperson, both Kranz and Brandi said they had no knowledge of expenditures for surveillance and online attacks.

    Meanwhile, Fox executives continue to analyze the list of consultants on Fox’s payroll to determine who is doing legitimate work for the network and who was hired by Ailes to do his personal bidding. The senior source said that more people will likely be let go in the days ahead.

    “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 who 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.”

    Yeah, Ailes’s personal army of detectives and consultants capable of running PR campaigns against his enemies probably didn’t do much reduce his propensity to harass his employees. Let’s hope the yet-to-be-announced new head of Fox News has that particular executive privilege left out of their compensation package.

    Also note that when you read:


    Fox operatives also targeted Joe Lindsley, the former editor of Ailes’s local newspaper, the Putnam County News and Recorder. In April 2011, Lindsley had a falling-out with Ailes and quit the paper, along with two co-workers. Ailes assigned private investigators to follow Lindsley around Putnam County. He also asked Fox host Andrea Tantaros, whom Ailes had once seated next to Lindsley at a dinner party at Ailes’s home, to contact Lindsley and report back on his whereabouts, two sources said. Meanwhile, Solivan posted negative comments about Lindsley on blogs, a source said

    Andrea Tantaros doesn’t just reportedly have experience acting as Ailes’s spy as part of one of his personal PR campaigns against a former employee he had a falling out with. Tantaros was also a victim of Ailes ‘let me harass you or you’ll be punished’-style of corporate management:

    New York Magazine

    Fox News Host Andrea Tantaros Says She Was Taken Off the Air After Making Sexual-Harassment Claims Against Roger Ailes

    By Gabriel Sherman

    August 8, 2016 3:57 p.m.

    Fox News’ senior executives have said they were unaware of sexual-harassment allegations against Roger Ailes before former anchor Gretchen Carlson filed a lawsuit against him in July. But those claims are now being challenged by Fox host Andrea Tantaros, who says that she complained multiple times to senior Fox executives in 2015 about Ailes’s inappropriate sexual behavior toward her. Tantaros says that, after she came forward, she was first demoted and eventually taken off the air in April 2016. Fox continues to pay her.

    Through her lawyer, Judd Burstein, Tantaros says that both she and her agent told Fox executive vice-president Bill Shine, senior vice-president Suzanne Scott, and general counsel Dianne Brandi about episodes of Ailes’s alleged harassment. “She made multiple harassment and hostile-workplace complaints,” Burstein says. As far as Tantaros knows, Fox executives never investigated her complaints, Burstein says; instead, they claim, Fox sidelined her. “I believe it’s retaliatory,” says Burstein.

    Fox’s attorneys dispute this. The network says Tantaros was suspended with pay because she violated company policy by not allowing Fox to vet her 2016 book, Tied Up in Knots: How Getting What They Wanted Has Made Women Miserable. Fox attorneys told Burstein the network was embarrassed by her book’s cover, which depicts Tantaros bound by ropes.

    According to Tantaros’s account, Ailes began harassing her on August 12, 2014. During a meeting in Ailes’s office, Ailes allegedly asked Tantaros to do “the twirl” so he could see her figure. She refused. Then, in mid-December of that year, Ailes made another advance, Burstein says. “Ailes asked her to turn around, and then he said, ‘Come over here so I can give you a hug.’” Tantaros rebuffed the advance, Burstein says.

    In February 2015, Tantaros was pulled off the 5 p.m. program The Five and demoted to working full-time on the midday show Outnumbered. In February 2015, according to Burstein, Ailes allegedly harassed Tantaros again in his office, asking about her workout routine because her body “looked good” and mentioning that she must “really look good in a bikini.”

    On April 30, 2015, Tantaros filed a formal workplace harassment complaint about Ailes to Shine, Burstein says. The following day, Burstein says, Tantaros met with Shine to further discuss her harassment claims. Shine allegedly told her, “Roger is a very powerful man,” and that she “should not fight this.”

    In August, her agent spoke with Brandi about the episode; according to the agent, Brandi said she would look into the matter but did not follow up.

    After making more complaints to Shine and Scott over the course of the next year, Tantaros was suspended from the network in April 2016. “All of a sudden, the book became this big issue,” Burstein says.

    A few weeks before she was suspended, Tantaros hired Burstein, an aggressive litigator who has history battling Fox, to negotiate the dispute over her book. Burstein had negotiated a multi-million-dollar severance package in 2013 for Brian Lewis, Ailes’s then-communications chief, who was fired by Ailes after he accused Lewis of being a source for the Ailes biography I was writing at the time.

    Burstein says Tantaros, who is still employed by Fox, knows she is taking a risk in violating her contract’s confidentiality clause. She’s telling her story now, he says, because “she doesn’t have the same fear of being attacked by the Fox PR machine, and the Murdochs have made it clear they want to clean up the place.”

    “Burstein says Tantaros, who is still employed by Fox, knows she is taking a risk in violating her contract’s confidentiality clause. She’s telling her story now, he says, because “she doesn’t have the same fear of being attacked by the Fox PR machine, and the Murdochs have made it clear they want to clean up the place.””

    Well, good luck to Murdochs at cleaning up the place. It sounds like Ailes’s harassment was a full-time job so there’s probably going to be a lot more cleaning to do. Fortunately, thanks to the $1 billion in revenue Fox News makes each year warping the American psyche there should be plenty of money to pay for all the legal settlements that undoubtedly coming up. So at least the harassed women of Fox News will get some sort of compensation without the company declaring bankruptcy first. And there we have it, the one positive thing to come out of the decades of the Fox News phenomena: its horrible success should provide plenty funds to pay for all the corporate harassment victims. Yay.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 8, 2016, 2:31 pm
  19. Here’s one more reason to hope that the victims of Roger Ailes’s serial harassment get ALL the money they can from Fox News’s parent corporation 21 Century Fox: 21st Century Fox is reportedly asking Ailes to fund part of any settlement with Gretchen Carlson and that settlement could reach 8 figures in part because of existence of audio tapes recorded by multiple women in conversation with Ailes. Let’s hope the 8 figure settlements aren’t limited to Carlson. And in related news, we’re getting a better idea of how Ailes may have kept a leash on his staff: they apparently long assumed he was wiretapping their phones.

    So secret recordings might help take down a powerful executive who allegedly used employee wiretapping as a means of keep his scandals under wraps. That’s sort of poetic justice if that’s how it plays out, although note that if Carlson’s case does go to trial, as opposed to the private arbitration Ailes is trying to arrange in place of trial, the world could get direct audio exposure to Roger working his verbal sleaze magic. There’s probably going not going to be too much poetry there:

    New York Magazine

    Report: ‘Multiple Women’ Taped Conversations With Roger Ailes

    By Margaret Hartmann

    August 9, 2016 4:41 a.m.

    New reports suggest the atmosphere at Fox News under Roger Ailes was more Nixonian than previously thought — though none of it should really come as a surprise since Ailes got his start in politics working for our most paranoid president.

    On Monday, Vanity Fair reported that the settlement in Gretchen Carlson’s sexual-harassment lawsuit against Ailes may reach “eight figures” due to “the existence of audio tapes recorded by multiple women in conversation with Ailes, two people familiar with the tapes said.” The magazine did not elaborate on what the tapes might contain, but with multiple women now claiming that they too were sexually harassed by the former CEO, we have an idea.

    In those settlement negotiations, 21st Century Fox is reportedly asking Ailes to fund part of any agreement with Carlson. Ailes has denied all the allegations, but according to Vanity Fair his attorneys are pushing to have the negotiations with Carlson take place in private arbitration due to the recordings. “If they litigate the case, all the tapes will become public, directly and through others,” a source said. “Then you will have a parade of women come in. Nobody wants that.”

    Meanwhile, CNNMoney’s Dylan Byers says Fox News staffers feared that Ailes was spying on them. On Sunday, New York’s Gabriel Sherman reported that the CEO used the Fox News budget to “hire consultants, political operatives, and private detectives” to go after journalists he considered his enemies. Byers adds that six current and former employees told him the network’s producers and on-air talent were afraid that the CEO was tapping their phones and monitoring their conversations.

    “We all believe our phones are tapped and that we are monitored,” one Fox personality said.

    “People definitely felt that the clicks on the line were coming from the inside,” another added.

    The sources presented no proof that Ailes was actually spying on them, but even if their fears were unfounded, it may explain how Ailes kept a lid on the harassment allegations for so long.

    “The sources presented no proof that Ailes was actually spying on them, but even if their fears were unfounded, it may explain how Ailes kept a lid on the harassment allegations for so long.

    Yes, Roger Ailes’s employees thought so little of him that they just assumed he was wiretapping their phones. You have to wonder where they got that idea.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 10, 2016, 2:52 pm
  20. One of the big questions facing Fox News following Roger Ailes’s departure (putting aside the big existential questions associated with running a malicious propaganda outlet) is who can possibly replace him without either pissing off the remaining Ailes’s allies or the growing number of Roger’s victims still at the network. Well, Fox’s parent company appears to have found the right person for the job. Or rather, the right two people since Fox News is getting two co-presidents: Fox Television Stations CEO Jack Abernethy, someone who doesn’t appear to have played any role in the enabling and coverup of Ailes’s behavior. At least his name hasn’t come up in reports. And then there’s Bill Shine, Roger Ailes’s second in command who repeatedly come up in the reporting as someone who was well aware of Ailes’s serial predations. It’s one hell of a compromise:

    Media Matters

    Fox News Promotes Executive Who Reportedly “Played An Integral Role” In Covering Up Sexual Harassments Claims

    8/12/2016
    ERIC HANANOKI

    Fox News announced today that the network is promoting senior executive vice president Bill Shine to co-president of Fox News. Shine reportedly “played an integral role in the cover up” of sexual harassment allegations against former chief Roger Ailes and has been described as Ailes’ “foot soldier” and “right-hand man.”

    Former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson sued Ailes last month for sexual harassment. Her lawsuit spurred numerous other women to come forward with similar claims against Ailes, who subsequently left the company. Fox News announced “a new senior leadership team and management structure today, naming Fox Television Stations CEO Jack Abernethy and Senior Executive Vice President Bill Shine to serve as Co-Presidents effective immediately.”

    New York magazine writer Gabriel Sherman — the leading source on the Ailes scandal — reported that Shine “played an integral role in the cover up of these sexual harassment claims.” He explained on CNN that Shine “pushed women into confidential mediation, signing nondisclosure agreements in exchange for their contracts to be paid.” Sherman also reported he was told that Shine “played a role in rallying the women to speak out against Roger Ailes’ accusers and lead this counter narrative to try to say don’t believe Gretchen Carlson, the allegations. If that is indeed the case, that again is — the Murdochs will have to say this is a guy, these are managers who helped enable and try to protect Roger Ailes, who presided over this culture.”

    Sherman reported that Shine played a key role in the silencing and “smearing” of “Rudi Bakhtiar, who says she was fired from Fox News after complaining about sexual harassment.” Sherman reported that during negotiations, “Shine attempted to portray Bakhtiar as a low-performing journalist”:

    During the negotiations, which took place at Asen’s law firm’s Washington office, Shine attempted to portray Bakhtiar as a low-performing journalist. But the mediator was not convinced. The tape Shine played “showed how good I was,” says Bakhtiar. “It was me doing live shots, one after another. Bill had to keep saying, ‘Well, let me forward a little.’ The mediator just looked at him and looked at me and says, ‘You’re very good.’” (Shine did not respond to a request for comment.)

    Sherman also reported that Shine played a role in handling allegations by Andrea Tantaros, who says she was “taken off the air after making sexual-harassment claims against Roger Ailes.” Tantaros said through her lawyer “that both she and her agent told Fox executive vice-president Bill Shine, senior vice-president Suzanne Scott, and general counsel Dianne Brandi about episodes of Ailes’s alleged harassment.” When she reportedly met with Shine to discuss her claims, Shine allegedly told her, “‘Roger is a very powerful man,’ and that she ‘should not fight this.’ … After making more complaints to Shine and Scott over the course of the next year, Tantaros was suspended from the network in April 2016.” Fox’s attorneys denied Tantaros’ allegations, and Shine told Politico through a spokesperson, “Andrea never made any complaints to me about Roger Ailes sexually harassing her.”

    Shine also reportedly played a role in the handling of Laurie Luhn, a former booker who reportedly received a $3.15 million settlement and was allegedly “sexually harassed and ‘psychologically tortured’ by Roger Ailes for more than 20 years.”

    NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik tweeted earlier this month, “Some within Fox News tell me programming/opinion EVP Bill Shine, an Ailes confidant, knew of misconduct & ensuing complaints by women” and noted, “In @gabrielsherman’s epic & damning piece on allegations by former booker Laurie Luhn, Shine played key role.”

    Politico reporter Joe Pompeo tweeted that in “FNC succession talks, one source told me, Roger/Rupert had always agreed on Bill Shine.”

    Sherman tweeted of the Fox News announcement: “First thoughts on Fox News leadership announcement: this is Ailes’s existing management team.” CNN media reporter Brian Stelter wrote: “So the twin promotions send a message from Murdoch: that the cable news channel does not need an infusion of new leadership at the top.”

    New York magazine writer Gabriel Sherman — the leading source on the Ailes scandal — reported that Shine “played an integral role in the cover up of these sexual harassment claims.” He explained on CNN that Shine “pushed women into confidential mediation, signing nondisclosure agreements in exchange for their contracts to be paid.” Sherman also reported he was told that Shine “played a role in rallying the women to speak out against Roger Ailes’ accusers and lead this counter narrative to try to say don’t believe Gretchen Carlson, the allegations. If that is indeed the case, that again is — the Murdochs will have to say this is a guy, these are managers who helped enable and try to protect Roger Ailes, who presided over this culture.”

    Yes, Bill Shine first helped cover up the truth and later arranged smear campaigns against those who were trying to do so. And now he’s Fox News’s co-president. Will this decision impact Fox News’s ratings as viewers learn that Rupert Murdoch promoted Ailes’s enabler? Probably not but we’ll see.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 12, 2016, 1:25 pm
  21. Check out Roger Ailes’s new gig. It sounds like it mostly focuses on poisoning the minds of large swathes of American society and basically trying to convince them to commit national suicide, so Roger should be prefect for the job:

    The New York Times

    Roger Ailes Is Advising Donald Trump Ahead of Presidential Debates

    By MAGGIE HABERMAN and ASHLEY PARKER
    AUG. 16, 2016

    Roger Ailes, the former Fox News chairman ousted last month over charges of sexual harassment, is advising Donald J. Trump in preparation for the all-important presidential debates this fall.

    Mr. Ailes is aiding the Republican nominee as Mr. Trump turns his attention to the first debate with Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent, Sept. 26 at Hofstra University on Long Island, according to four people briefed on the move, who insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter.

    Two of them said Mr. Ailes’s role could extend beyond the debates, which Mr. Trump’s advisers see as crucial to vaulting him back into strong contention for the presidency after self-inflicted wounds that have eroded his standing in public opinion polls.

    For Mr. Ailes, being connected with Mr. Trump’s campaign could be a form of redemption after he was pushed out of the powerful network that he helped build. And for Mr. Trump, having Mr. Ailes taking a hand in his preparations for the debates adds immeasurably to the messaging and media expertise in his corner — and could raise alarms within Mrs. Clinton’s camp about just how aggressive Mr. Trump plans to be in those encounters.

    Mr. Ailes’s intimate knowledge of how Fox News approaches debates could also give Mr. Trump an important edge should one of the network’s journalists be chosen to moderate one of the three events.

    It was not clear when Mr. Ailes began helping the campaign. He resigned his post at Fox News on July 21 amid an investigation into allegations of sexual harassment by former female employees that occurred after a lawsuit by the former anchor Gretchen Carlson.

    It was also not immediately known whether Mr. Ailes, who received $40 million in an exit agreement with Fox News, would be paid for work on the campaign, or how much time he would devote to it. Mr. Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, is not being paid. Susan Estrich, a lawyer who is representing Mr. Ailes, did not respond to emails and phone messages.

    Mr. Ailes met with Mr. Trump on Sunday at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J., and spoke about a range of matters related to the presidential race, including campaign advertisements, according to a person briefed on the discussion.

    In a telephone interview late Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Trump said Mr. Ailes was not formally involved in his debate preparations, and chafed at the suggestion that he even needed to prepare for them. “I’ll speak with Roger, but this is not a formal thing,” Mr. Trump said. “I don’t have a debate coach. I’ve never had a debate coach.” He insisted that Mr. Ailes had “no role.”

    Before he founded Fox News in 1996, Mr. Ailes spent years as a respected political strategist with a pit bull style. He was a top adviser to Richard M. Nixon’s presidential campaign in 1968, softening the candidate’s hard-edge, unapproachable image.

    He was also a sought-after debate coach, working with President Ronald Reagan in 1984 and readying Vice President George Bush for debates with Gov. Michael S. Dukakis of Massachusetts in 1988.

    According to Gabriel Sherman’s 2014 book on Mr. Ailes, “The Loudest Voice in the Room,” Mr. Ailes played a crucial role before Reagan’s second debate with Vice President Walter F. Mondale in 1984. During a prep session, he asked Reagan, who had performed badly in the first debate, how he would handle being asked about his age.

    The question came quickly, and Reagan’s answer, which went down in the annals of witty debate lines, effectively quashed the subject: “I will not make age an issue of this campaign,” he said. “I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”

    In 1988, Mr. Ailes was enlisted for an image makeover of Mr. Bush, urging the patrician Republican to model himself after the actor Gary Cooper. In debate prep, Mr. Ailes launched rapid questions at Mr. Bush to hone his reflexes, and directed the candidate to slow his sentences and deepen his voice, according to Mr. Sherman’s book.

    Mr. Ailes also worked on lower-level political races, including the unsuccessful New York City mayoral campaign of Rudolph W. Giuliani in 1989. Mr. Giuliani has emerged as one of Mr. Trump’s most devoted surrogates in the presidential campaign.

    Mr. Ailes and Mr. Trump themselves have a long relationship, although it became fraught at points during the Republican primaries.

    Still, Mr. Ailes’s involvement is certain to stoke controversy, both for the ongoing sexual harassment cases and for the role that Fox News played in covering Mr. Trump’s candidacy — and elevating him as a potential presidential candidate beginning in 2011.

    One of Mr. Trump’s longest-lived and highest-profile campaign controversies was a dispute with the Fox News host Megyn Kelly, with whom he clashed angrily beginning with the first Republican primary debate a year ago. Afterward, Mr. Trump implied that she had been agitated during the first Republican debate because she was menstruating.

    Notably, when Mr. Ailes left the network in July, Mr. Manafort, the Trump campaign chairman, denied suggestions that Mr. Ailes would be advising the campaign — but the candidate left the door open.

    by Chuck Todd of NBC News on July 24 whether Mr. Ailes was going to advise the campaign, Mr. Trump replied: “I don’t want to comment. But he’s been a friend of mine for a long time.” He called Mr. Ailes a “very, very good person” and said, “A lot of people are thinking he’s going to run my campaign.”

    Mr. Ailes brings enormous experience in preparing for presidential debates, but his addition to Mr. Trump’s team also raises intriguing questions.

    Mr. Trump’s support among female voters has eroded during the course of his campaign, after a number of incendiary statements.

    Mr. Trump’s challenge during the crowded Republican primary debates was far less pronounced than it will be in what could be a head-to-head against Mrs. Clinton over 90 minutes. He was one of 10 candidates onstage and could often filibuster his way through questions or avoid them entirely as his rivals consumed airtime — an approach that would be untenable in a one-on-one or even a three-way matchup including the Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson.

    What is more, some of Mr. Trump’s worst moments in the primary debates involved Ms. Kelly and Carly Fiorina, the only woman in the Republican nomination contest. Mr. Trump, who has repeatedly swatted away accusations of sexism during the campaign, will probably require coaching on how to handle the potential first female president in a debate.

    Whether Mr. Ailes can best address that concern is unclear. He is deeply familiar with Republican lines of attack against Mrs. Clinton, and with the controversies that have surrounded her and her husband going back to their days in the White House. But even before the sexual harassment allegations against Mr. Ailes, there were questions about whether he had adequately defended Ms. Kelly in her fight against Mr. Trump in 2015.

    “What is more, some of Mr. Trump’s worst moments in the primary debates involved Ms. Kelly and Carly Fiorina, the only woman in the Republican nomination contest. Mr. Trump, who has repeatedly swatted away accusations of sexism during the campaign, will probably require coaching on how to handle the potential first female president in a debate.”

    Yep, Trump clearly needs someone to help him prepare to debate the first female presidential candidate. And Roger Ailes is that person. Roger’s work is clearly not done. And if he does a really good job, his work might not be done for another four to eight years. Sorry ladies!

    So if Roger starts harassing and blackmailing the Trump campaign’s female campaign staff, will the Trump campaign be liable? Because it’s not like that scenario would be a surprise at this point, which should only add to the potential liabilities, but Ailes apparently isn’t being paid or considered an employee and is just considered The Donald’s really good friend. His really good friend who might start hanging out with the campaign a lot more now that he has so much time on his hands. That might not be a cheap lawsuit if Trump’s campaign is liable, but at least the campaign should have the money to cover it.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 16, 2016, 6:09 pm
  22. If you’ve ever wondered what something like the Playboy Mansion would cost to purchase, we just learned that last week: $100 million for everything including all statues, gargoyles and arcade games at the mansion. Nine figures. That’s not cheap, but then again, it’s the fully stocked Playboy Mansion.

    And in unfortunately related news, if you’ve ever wondered what it would cost a major corporation in lawsuits when its discovered its been operating like a non-consenting Playboy Mansion-like corporate sexual harassment cult, we’re getting a better idea of the final price tag and it’s probably going to be a lot of figures:

    Talking Points Memo Livewire

    Ex-Host Sues Fox, Says Network Operates Like ‘Playboy-Mansion-Like Cult’

    By Allegra Kirkland
    Published August 23, 2016, 6:47 AM EDT

    Former Fox News host Andrea Tantaros filed a lawsuit Monday charging that top network executives retaliated against her for reporting sexual harassment by ousted chairman Roger Ailes.

    “Fox News masquerades as a defender of traditional family values, but behind the scenes, it operates like a sex-fueled, Playboy Mansion-like cult, steeped in intimidation, indecency and misogyny,” the suit, filed in New York State Supreme Court, reads.

    Tantaros claimed she was one of many women at the network who endured unwanted sexual advances by Ailes, and said that efforts to report the harassment to Fox executives resulted in her being demoted and eventually taken off the air. Earlier this month, the lawyer for the former “Outnumbered” co-host told told New York magazine that she had informed Fox executive president Bill Shine, senior vice president Suzanne Scott, and general counsel Dianne Brandi about the alleged harassment and made numerous formal reports about it.

    “Ailes did not act alone,” the lawsuit reads. “He may have been the primary culprit, but his actions were condoned by his most senior lieutenants, who engaged in a concerted effort to silence Tantaros by threats, humiliation and retaliation.”

    A spokesman for Shine, who replaced Ailes after he was ousted in late July amid multiple sexual harassment claims, told the New York Times that Tantaros never brought the harassment allegations to him. Ailes has denied all of the harassment allegations.

    The fallout at the network began in early July when former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson filed a lawsuit alleging that she was fired from the network for rebuffing Ailes’ advances. A number of other past Ailes associates and employees have since come forward with stories of harassment.

    In her suit, Tantaros said that Ailes called her into his office in August 2014 and asked her to turn around “so I can get a good look at you.” She refused, and soon after was moved from a co-host position on “The Five” to the lower-rated midday show “Outnumbered.” Other office meetings in December 2014 and February 2015 ended in similarly uncomfortable exchanges, in which Ailes allegedly talked about how she would look in a bikini and spoke about her romantic life.

    The suit claims that Tantaros told Shine about the meetings in April 2015 and that she was told to “let this one go.” She also alleges that she was subject to unwelcome advances from Fox host Bill O’Reilly.

    According to the Times, Tantaros’ lawyer, Judd Burstein, said that Fox News offered to buy Tantaros out for a sum “in the seven figures” if she renounced her claims against Ailes, O’Reilly and other Fox employees.

    “According to the Times, Tantaros’ lawyer, Judd Burstein, said that Fox News offered to buy Tantaros out for a sum “in the seven figures” if she renounced her claims against Ailes, O’Reilly and other Fox employees.”

    Bill O’Reilly too? Does this mark the return of the infamous loofah? Let’s hope not. But if O’Reilly was an active, and protected, member of Fox New’s Playboy Mansion-like cult, that could (and should) add quite a bit to the final settlement. And with Andrea Tantaros allegedly being offered a seven figure hush money settlement, you have to wonder how many other seven figure settlements of that nature have already quietly been offered. A sex-fueled, Playboy Mansion-like cult, steeped in intimidation, indecency and misogyny presumably has quite a few large hush money offers that it has to make once its Playboy Mansion-like cult status is no longer a secret.

    And after all those Ailes’ victims learn that the audio tape of Roger Ailes harassing Gretchen Carlson could lead to an eight figure settlement, how many are even going to want to quietly settle? How much easier will it be to get a large settlement for everyone else if documented evidence of Ailes’s harassing behavior succeeds in getting Carlson eight figures? Seven figures here, eight figures there, and before you know it Fox News could be looking at a whopping Playboy Mansion-league nine figures in all. Who knows if it will get that high but with over 20 women already accusing Ailes it’s not inconceivable. Especially since Ailes’s inner circle of executives were allegedly in on it too:

    Tantaros claimed she was one of many women at the network who endured unwanted sexual advances by Ailes, and said that efforts to report the harassment to Fox executives resulted in her being demoted and eventually taken off the air. Earlier this month, the lawyer for the former “Outnumbered” co-host told told New York magazine that she had informed Fox executive president Bill Shine, senior vice president Suzanne Scott, and general counsel Dianne Brandi about the alleged harassment and made numerous formal reports about it.

    “Ailes did not act alone,” the lawsuit reads. “He may have been the primary culprit, but his actions were condoned by his most senior lieutenants, who engaged in a concerted effort to silence Tantaros by threats, humiliation and retaliation.”

    Don’t forget that Bill Shine is the new co-CEO.

    It’s all a horrible reminder if that if you’re going to run your business like a Playboy Mansion-like cult, it’s really only likely work out in the long run if your name is Hugh Hefner and your job is to live in the Playboy Mansion. Otherwise, you probably don’t want to run your business like a Playboy Mansion sexual harassment cult.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 23, 2016, 1:55 pm
  23. There was a big update on the nightmare sexual harassment culture at Fox News: Fox News settled with Gretchen Carlson for $20 million and a public apology. So that was quite a development and admission about Roger Ailes’s serial behavior considering that Gretchen is just one of over 20 women who have come forward to investigators or journalists to reveal Ailes’s predations.

    In related news, Roger Ailes appears to be lawyering up for a big lawsuit against Gabriel Sherman and New York Magazine, the journalist and magazine that helped make this story so big by investigating and finding over 20 other women who have been Ailes’s victims over the decades. What exactly Ailes is going to sue for should be interesting to find out given that Fox News just issued a massive settlement that would appear to be a validation of the reporting. But we’ll find out eventually since, as the article below puts it, Act II of the Ailes saga may have just begun. Let’s hope there’s a lot less sexual harassment in this act:

    Vanity Fair

    Fox Settles with Gretchen Carlson for $20 Million—and Offers an Unprecedented Apology
    Act II of the Ailes saga may have just begun.

    by Sarah Ellison

    September 6, 2016 8:48 am

    It has been exactly two months since Gretchen Carlson, a former Fox News anchor, sued her old boss, Roger Ailes, for sexual harassment. The suit inaugurated a frenetic series of events, not only within Fox News’s subterranean newsroom—where staffers feared for their jobs and, in one case, even the network’s future—but also throughout the media, as other women came forward to share their own stories of harassment. It all resulted in Ailes’s dramatic, and nearly mind-boggling, ouster from the news network that he co-founded 20 years ago. (Ailes has repeatedly, and fervently, denied all allegations of sexual harassment.)

    On Friday, Ailes biographer and New York writer Gabriel Sherman, who has broken key elements of the story, published a lengthy cover article detailing Ailes’s downfall. As I have reported, Ailes’s own apparent paranoia increased around the time that Sherman began reporting his unauthorized biography, which was published in early 2014. According to a person close to Ailes, he hung a wooden door, now dismantled, that obscured any view into his office suite; according to numerous people, he also recorded anyone who entered. Ailes kept guns in the office (a Glock and Smith & Wesson were discovered by 21st Century Fox after his ouster). Carlson and others, including former Fox News booker Laurie Luhn, also detailed Ailes’s alleged harassment, much of it outlined by Sherman in his coverage.

    In the early days of the Ailes saga, many applauded how 21st Century Fox was handling the crisis. Rather than defending Ailes, C.E.O. James Murdoch and Executive Chairman Lachlan Murdoch heralded a new era at the media empire by investigating him. Their swift decision to launch an internal investigation into the allegations, handled by the top-flight law firm Paul, Weiss, signaled that the younger Murdochs were prepared to adopt a different tack than their laissez–faire father, Rupert Murdoch, who is famously loyal to his deputies and whose relationship with Ailes went back decades. In doing so, they seemed determined to leave the seamiest aspects of Fox News’s culture behind for good.

    But there was always a tension between cleaning things up and preserving Fox News, which makes $1 billion in annual profit. The Murdochs appear intent on putting the Ailes saga behind them as they move into the last stretches of an election and an attempt to corral crucial anchors, such as Megyn Kelly, to re-sign with the network. Now the company has agreed, on behalf of Ailes, to settle Carlson’s suit for a stunning $20 million, according to three people familiar with the settlement. To reinforce their seriousness about creating a new culture in a post-Ailes world, the company offered Carlson a public apology as part of the settlement. “We sincerely regret and apologize for the fact that Gretchen was not treated with the respect and dignity that she and all of our colleagues deserve,” the statement noted. (The company, according to two people familiar with the discussions, has also reached settlement agreements with two other women.)

    Though Carlson’s case is against Ailes personally, Fox is essentially his insurer for any settlement, according to two people familiar with the arrangement, and discussions between Ailes’s legal team and 21st Century Fox’s legal team became very tense regarding how much Ailes might pay in a settlement. (At press time, it was unclear how much Ailes was personally on the hook for.) As part of the language at the end of the settlement, numerous people with knowledge of the deal told me, Carlson has agreed not to bring any further legal action against other executives at Fox News, or against the company itself.

    The settlement punctuates an important chapter in the Ailes scandal. While the Paul, Weiss investigation interviewed more than 20 women, according to two sources familiar with the process, it never officially expanded to examine the broader culture of Fox News. The firm, according to numerous people familiar with the process, was apparently never ordered to scour the company’s hard drives for all evidence of sexual harassment or bawdy culture. In some ways, according to one person familiar with the process, the Paul, Weiss investigation simply got a revenue machine back on track.

    The settlement provides a relatively swift closure to an ugly chapter in the company’s history—one that, ironically, gave the Murdoch brothers their first major leadership test. But as much as the Murdochs may wish to put this episode behind them, Ailes, who was fairly silent during the Carlson suit, may just be getting started.

    On Friday, as the F.T. first reported, Ailes’s newly retained libel lawyer, Charles Harder, sent “demand” letters to both Sherman and New York magazine asking them to retain all documentation related to Sherman’s reporting. (A spokesperson for New York confirmed receipt of the letter.) Harder recently represented Terry Bollea, a.k.a Hulk Hogan, in his successful $140 million lawsuit against Gawker Media. Harder also recently represented Melania Trump.

    Ailes has a history of threatening litigation. On Sunday, Ailes’s attorney representing him in the Carlson suit, Susan Estrich, of Quinn Emanuel, issued the following statement in response to my question about Harder’s letter to New York and Sherman: “Quinn Emanuel’s role remains unchanged,” with respect to Mr. Ailes, adding that “Mr Harder is advising Mr. and Mrs. Ailes on possible defamation actions against NY Magazine and Mr. Sherman.” Harder, for his part, did not respond to a request for comment. (A 21st Century Fox spokesperson told me that the company has no involvement in Ailes’s retention of Harder.)

    “Though Carlson’s case is against Ailes personally, Fox is essentially his insurer for any settlement, according to two people familiar with the arrangement, and discussions between Ailes’s legal team and 21st Century Fox’s legal team became very tense regarding how much Ailes might pay in a settlement. (At press time, it was unclear how much Ailes was personally on the hook for.) As part of the language at the end of the settlement, numerous people with knowledge of the deal told me, Carlson has agreed not to bring any further legal action against other executives at Fox News, or against the company itself.

    Considering the size of the settlement and the fact that it precludes lawsuits against other executives at Fox News, you have to wonder just how many executives might end up leaving once the legal dust settles on this. Will we see one of Ailes’s co-replacements leaving too? It’s hard to rule out.

    You also have to wonder how much of Fox’s on-air talent stays with the network. And how much more is it going to cost to hire talent to work for a news network now known for being touchy-feely in all the wrong ways. It’s an especially interesting question after it was reported that Greta Van Susteren was just fired from the network after trying to use the turmoil of Ailes’s departure to get such a big raise that the network let her go immediately instead:

    CNNMoney

    Why Greta Van Susteren is leaving Fox News so suddenly

    by Brian Stelter and Dylan Byers
    September 6, 2016: 7:04 PM ET

    A sharp knock on the door signaled that Greta Van Susteren’s time on Fox News Channel was over.

    A courier arrived at Van Susteren’s Washington, D.C. home at 9 a.m. Tuesday, hand-delivering two letters that said that Van Susteren “was being taken off the air” immediately, according to her husband, John Coale, who is a high-profile Washington lawyer.

    Van Susteren was already planning to leave, but she thought she would be hosting her 7 p.m. program “On the Record” for a few more weeks.

    Yanking her off the air without a chance to say goodbye was “a bit immature,” Coale remarked.

    It was also a message from Rupert Murdoch.

    Van Susteren has been one of the top anchors at Fox News for the past 14 years.

    Murdoch, the patriarch of Fox’s parent company 21st Century Fox, disliked her recent attempt to renegotiate her contract, and the unusual courier visit was a result of that, said one of the sources interviewed for this story.

    The messy breakup is the latest sign of tension — “chaos,” according to Coale — behind the scenes at Fox News.

    Coale said Tuesday afternoon that there’s “possible litigation in the future” between Van Susteren and Fox. He declined to elaborate.

    Fox News declined to comment on Coale’s remarks.

    The network announced her departure less than an hour after the courier arrived. Van Susteren was not quoted in the press release.

    Fox then deleted the “On the Record” web site, Van Susteren’s biography, and her pioneering Gretawire blog — essentially erasing her from FoxNews.com.

    So Van Susteren took to Facebook to explain her exit.

    Fox “has not felt like home to me for a few years and I took advantage of the clause in my contract which allows me to leave now,” she wrote.

    That clause is known as a “key man clause.” It was triggered by Fox News chief Roger Ailes’ resignation in late July amid a sexual harassment scandal. Once Ailes left, Van Susteren had a chance to leave too.

    The sources said Van Susteren sought to renegotiate the terms of her contract — and asked for a big bump in pay — after Ailes resigned.

    Fox executives refused to negotiate, one of the sources said.

    There was a “financial disagreement,” another one of the sources said.

    Van Susteren was motivated to leave in part because she had been unhappy and uncomfortable with the way Ailes ran the network the past few years, and with the way the network was perceived, two of the sources said.

    Even while vocally defending Fox in public, she had concerns in private.

    “It didn’t appear it was getting better” after Ailes left, one of the sources said, so she looked to the exit.

    Van Susteren had a 60-day period of time to invoke the escape clause after Ailes resigned. With time running out, Van Susteren sent a letter to Fox last Thursday night, informing the network of her decision.

    The goal, Coale said, was to arrange a graceful exit. He said Van Susteren expected to continue hosting for weeks “to help them sort things out and have a smooth transition.”

    Indeed, television hosts normally have some time on the air after it is known that they’re leaving. But not this time.

    Brit Hume, the former 6 p.m. host who now serves as a Fox political analyst, is taking over Van Susteren’s 7 p.m. time slot until election day.

    Van Susteren said on Facebook that she hopes “to continue my career in broadcasting.” A former criminal defense and civil trial lawyer, she joined Fox News from CNN in 2002 and has hosted “On The Record” ever since.

    She cannot leap to a new network right away, however, due to the terms of her Fox contract. It is unclear how long the waiting period is supposed to last.

    Fox News announced Van Susteren’s departure just a few minutes after the channel’s parent company, confirmed a $20 million settlement deal with Gretchen Carlson, the anchorwoman who sued Ailes in July, starting the chain of events that led to his ouster.

    “Murdoch, the patriarch of Fox’s parent company 21st Century Fox, disliked her recent attempt to renegotiate her contract, and the unusual courier visit was a result of that, said one of the sources interviewed for this story.”

    That’s right: in response to one of Fox News’s highest rated females anchors, someone who always defended Ailes as this scandal unfolded, asking for a raise in light of the massive embarrassment Fox News’s management has brought upon the network, Rupert Murdoch apparently decides to summarily fire her before she could even say goodbye to her audience. What a subtle message to the rest of the Fox News staff.

    Given the signal Rupert Murdoch just sent by casually ditching one of their more loyal anchors, we probably shouldn’t be super shocked to learn about more Fox News departures over the next few months. And if Donald Trump loses the election and goes on to start an Ailes-run “Trump TV”, as so many are speculating could happen, who knows many many Fox News employees could become former Fox News employees over the next year or so. We really could be looking at a major shakeup in the US political media landscape.

    And as tempting as it is to fantasize about Fox News suffering a major ratings dive after a string of high-profile departures, it’s worth keeping in mind that if Trump starts Trump TV and we really do see a big shakeup at Fox News, there’s one very terrifying and destructive aspect to that whole phenomena that could make the destruction of Fox News even more damaging the network itself: Given the reality that Fox News simply has a much, much large audience than any of its cable news competitors, if Fox News starts hemorrhaging viewers that’s a massive potential prize for all the other networks but a prize they’ll only win by behaving more like Fox News. *shudder*

    Hopefully that won’t happen, and maybe a Fox decline will primarily be sopped up by its existing far-right competitors like Glenn Beck’s BlazeTV without triggering some sort of horrific “Fox Friendly” copy-cat phase by the rest of the networks. But just imagine this transition at Fox News doesn’t go over very smoothly, there’s more big name talent lost, AND the big flashy “Trump TV” doesn’t get up and running fast enough to grabbing all those now wavering Fox News viewers. All those poor Fox News viewers with no media “home”, no one to scare them and reinforce the lies. Those people would have to go somewhere and there’s a lot of them. Isn’t that a giant recipe to dumb down the US media landscape even more?

    Could the death of Fox News actually be the most damaging phase of the network’s existence? Hopefully that’s just a worst case scenario but it’s a possibility we can’t rule out. It’s all a reminder that if you encounter across a dangerous alien that latches onto people’s heads and implants horribly destructive parasites in them that threaten to destroy the world, you should indeed try to free people from the alien’s head-grip but beware when it bleeds.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 6, 2016, 6:18 pm
  24. Well, another woman has come forward charging Roger Ailes with sexually harassing her during a job interview and sabotaging her job when she refused his advances. And in what is either a coincidence of timing or an informal corporate response to this latest allegation, 21st Century Fox finally hired an outsider to lead its human resources department the next day:

    The Los Angeles Times

    Fox News hires a new human resources chief in response to sexual harassment claims

    By Stephen Battaglio
    December 14, 2016, 3:45 PM

    Still grappling with sexual harassment allegations, Fox News announced Wednesday that it has hired a new human resources chief from outside the company.

    Kevin Lord, formerly of the TV station group Tegna and NBC News, will be the new executive vice president of human resources and will report directly to Fox News co-Presidents Jack Abernethy and Bill Shine.

    Denise Collins, who had been the top human resources executive at Fox News, will now report to Lord.

    Ailes has denied all allegations of sexual harassment during his Fox News tenure. The matter first surfaced when Carlson filed a suit against Ailes in July, saying her career was hurt by not submitting to his sexual advances. An internal investigation revealed a pattern of similar behavior, as more than 20 employees, including Fox News Channel’s biggest female star, Megyn Kelly, came forward to describe inappropriate actions by Ailes.

    21st Century Fox paid Carlson $20 million to settle the lawsuit. Ailes was paid $40 million when he exited the company.

    But since Ailes departed, two more suits have been filed, the most recent from a part-time reporter at a Fox TV station in New York.

    Lidia Curanaj, 38, alleges in a suit filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in New York that she was not hired by Fox News because she refused to submit to sexual advances made by Ailes when he interviewed her in 2011. She also contends that her career at Fox-owned TV station WNYW was harmed because of sexual discrimination. Fox has said the claims have no merit.

    Fox News host Andrea Tantaros alleged in a suit filed in August that she was removed from her on-air role in retaliation for making a sexual harassment complaint against Ailes and that Fox News executives covered up his actions. Fox News has said she was suspended for not giving the company an opportunity to review her book before promoting it on the air.

    “Kevin Lord, formerly of the TV station group Tegna and NBC News, will be the new executive vice president of human resources and will report directly to Fox News co-Presidents Jack Abernethy and Bill Shine.

    So Fox News’s replaces Denise Collins, who has been with Fox News since 2000, with a new outsider to head up the HR department in what is intended to signal a change in the company’s Playboy Mansion-like cult style of corporate leadership. And who is this new outsider going to be directly reporting to? Oh, that’s right, Bill Shine, Ailes’s former deputy and now co-President who has also been identified as someone who played an integral role in facilitating Ailes’s predations and helped cover it up by arranging for smear campaigns against Ailes’s accusers.

    What a powerful signal. Fox News has clearly learned its lesson.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 14, 2016, 7:26 pm
  25. With the firing of Bill O’Reilly from Fox News following the latest string of sexual harassment allegations leading to another shakeup of Fox New’s lineup, here’s a reminder that if you were hoping Fox News was going to take this as an opportunity to reshape and moderate its hard right politics and no longer be a source of maelevalent misinformation designed to radicalize its viewership, the Alt-Right has high hopes for Fox News too and their hopes are actually becoming reality:

    MediaMatters

    Why Neo-Nazis Are Kvelling Over Tucker Carlson

    MATT GERTZ
    April 27, 2017 10:27 AM EDT

    Tucker Carlson’s takeover of Fox News’ 8 p.m. time slot has been greeted with cheers by his fans in the neo-Nazi, white nationalist, and misogynistic corners of the Internet.

    As the news began to break last week that Bill O’Reilly would not be returning to Fox, “alt-right” figures began expressing their hope that Carlson, who has garnered a large audience at the network since his show launched late last year, would get the coveted hour.

    “Tucker Carlson taking O’Reilly’s time slot would be huge win for America,” tweeted Mike Cernovich, an online personality with a history of making white nationalist and misogynistic commentary who helped push the “pizzagate” conspiracy theory.

    Jazzhands McFeels, the pseudonymous co-host of the popular “alt-right” podcast Fash the Nation for the anti-Semitic website The Right Stuff, similarly claimed that Fox had the “opportunity for an all-star lineup” led by Carlson.

    The dregs of the so-called “alt-right” championed Carlson’s promotion because they think he is actively working to mainstream their despicable beliefs.

    Like many Fox hosts, including the one he replaced, Carlson has a long record of offering virulent commentary about women and people of color, and he has served as a cheerleader for President Donald Trump, another white nationalist favorite. But it is the Fox host’s interview style — in particular the way he demolishes perceived enemies of the “alt-right” on air for his audience’s amusement — that has turned his show into must-see viewing for members of the misogynistic and racist movement.

    “The key to his success is that he destroys people everyone hates,” writes Eric Striker on the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer, which recently celebrated the 128th anniversary of Adolf Hitler’s birth and has a section devoted to the “Jewish Problem.” “He mocks and berates an assembly line of Jewish liars, literally laughing at the absurdity of their canned talking points about everything from immigration to Russia to trannies,” Striker continued.

    In the post, which was devoted to congratulating the Fox host for his debut ratings in the 8 p.m. time slot and his forthcoming book, Striker claims that if there’s “any talking head you can safely classify in the spectrum of ‘alt-right,’ it’s Tucker Carlson.” He concludes that Carlson is “America’s voice and we need to draft him for President.”

    Other Daily Stormer headlines about Carlson’s show over the past week include “Tucker Carlson SUFFOCATES and SODOMIZES Illegal Spic Goldman Sachs Employee,” “Tucker Carlson BARBARICALLY MUTILATES Fat Black Woman Demanding Free College for Black Slaves,” and “Tucker Carlson GASSES Jew Mark Cuban with a DIESEL MOTOR Salvaged from a SOVIET SUBMARINE.”

    Several white nationalist and neo-Nazi figures were particularly pleased that Carlson would replace O’Reilly, whom they view as a “cuckservative” whose time had passed.

    The neo-Nazi website InfoStormer, whose mission is “Destroying Jewish Tyranny,” wrote of Carlson’s promotion: “Dumb move by these feminists. They pushed out Bill O’Reilly only to see Tucker Carlson installed in his place. Carlson is a one man gas chamber who gasses Jews and feminists on a nightly basis. He is literally and figuratively Hitler.” The website also commented that it was good that Carlson would replace O’Reilly because he is “a much better pundit than O’Reilly and has been regularly lampshading Jews on national television.”

    The anti-Semitic writer Kevin MacDonald, whom the Southern Poverty Law Center calls “the neo-Nazi movement’s favorite academic,” says that Carlson is “far edgier & less cuckservative” than O’Reilly, adding, “Tucker is red-pilled but manages to stay mainstream.”

    And according to Richard Spencer, the white nationalist who coined the term “alt-right,” Carlson “is a much better figure” who is “more intelligent” than O’Reilly and “is at least sympathetic towards the alt side of things” in a way his predecessor is not.

    “Jazzhands McFeels, the pseudonymous co-host of the popular “alt-right” podcast Fash the Nation for the anti-Semitic website The Right Stuff, similarly claimed that Fox had the “opportunity for an all-star lineup” led by Carlson.”

    Yes, it’s quite an opportunity at Fox News. An opportunity for neo-Nazis.

    Will Carlson live up to those ‘Alt-Right’ hopes? Well, as anyone who has read Tucker Carlson’s The Daily Caller should recognize, yes, he will live up to their hopes because that’s what he’s been doing for years.

    And in horribly related news, the ‘Alt-Right’ neo-Nazis have another reason to show some Fox News love: 13 employees are suing the network for racial discrimination:

    Talking Points Memo
    Livewird

    13 Fox Employees, Including Anchor, Now Suing Network For Racial Discrimination

    By Allegra Kirkland
    Published April 26, 2017 4:07 pm

    Thirteen current or former Fox News employees of color, including a current anchor, have joined two racial discrimination lawsuits against the network, CNN reported Wednesday. Those dozen-plus plaintiffs are just the beginning, their lawyer predicted.

    This lawsuit will continue to grow, I suspect,” attorney Douglas Wigdor said at a press conference, according to CNN, noting that he has received calls from additional on-air Fox employees since he filed an amended version of the complaint Tuesday.

    In a statement, Wigdor accused the network of “systemic race discrimination” and expressed hope that the litigation would prompt the network to take swift action.

    “When it comes to racial discrimination, 21st Century Fox has been operating as if it should be called 18th Century Fox,” the statement read.

    Kelly Wright (pictured), a black reporter and anchor who has spent 14 years at the network, is now lead plaintiff on the class action suit, which was filed last month in state Supreme Court in the Bronx on behalf of two former payment department employees.

    Wright alleged in the complaint that he was “effectively sidelined and asked to perform the role of a ‘Jim Crow’—the racist caricature of a Black entertainer,” according to CNN.

    An award-winning journalist who serves as co-anchor of America’s News Headquarters, a Saturday program, Wright contended he’s been kept off of the network’s marquee programs, like “The O’Reilly Factor.”

    He alleged his effort to do a series of stories about black communities in America was rejected by the show because “it showed Blacks in ‘too positive’ a light,” according to the complaint obtained by CNN.

    Wright joins a complaint first brought by Tichoana Brown and Tabrese Wright, who alleged that Fox’s recently fired comptroller, Judith Slater subjected them to “top-down racial harassment.” This involved Slater demanding that black employees arm-wrestle white colleagues, mocking how black employees pronounced words like “ask” and “mother” and suggesting black men were “women beaters.” Fox News, its parent company, 21st Century Fox, Slater, and Fox’s general counsel Dianne Brandi are named as defendants, according to the New York Times.

    Another former employee, Adasa Blanco, filed a related, separate complaint on Tuesday against Fox News, Slater and Brandi, alleging that top executives at the network ignored employees’ repeated complaints about racial discrimination, CNN reported.

    Slater was fired in February after the network learned about the allegations. Her attorney Catherine Foti told CNN in a statement that the racial discrimination complaints “are completely false.”

    The beleaguered conservative news network currently faces two additional lawsuits from former on-camera employees accusing the network and its senior executives of sexual harassment and illegal surveillance, respectively.

    ““When it comes to racial discrimination, 21st Century Fox has been operating as if it should be called 18th Century Fox,” the statement read.”

    18th Century Fox. It has an appropriate ring to it. Although given the successes of the global far-right in their long quest to kill social progress, it’s hard to say that “21st Century Fox” isn’t apt too. Sadly.

    So we’ll see who they end up replacing Kelly Wright with in his anchor slot, but note which program he alleges he was sidelined from and why: Bill O’Reilly’s show…because Wright might show Blacks in ‘too positive’ a light:


    Kelly Wright (pictured), a black reporter and anchor who has spent 14 years at the network, is now lead plaintiff on the class action suit, which was filed last month in state Supreme Court in the Bronx on behalf of two former payment department employees.

    Wright alleged in the complaint that he was “effectively sidelined and asked to perform the role of a ‘Jim Crow’—the racist caricature of a Black entertainer,” according to CNN.

    An award-winning journalist who serves as co-anchor of America’s News Headquarters, a Saturday program, Wright contended he’s been kept off of the network’s marquee programs, like “The O’Reilly Factor.”

    He alleged his effort to do a series of stories about black communities in America was rejected by the show because “it showed Blacks in ‘too positive’ a light,” according to the complaint obtained by CNN.

    And that’s a good summary of the kind of changes we’re seeing at Fox: They fired a misogynist who refused to show Blacks in too positive a light and replaced him with an Alt-Right dream host. What a big change.

    And in other horribly related news…

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | April 28, 2017, 2:29 pm
  26. Remember when CBS’s CEO notoriously said of Donald Trump’s campaign, “it may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS”. If true, just imagine how good a Trump presidency would be a liberal-branded cable news network like MSNBC. Well, it turns out that Trump’s presidency is actually creating a rather significant problem for MSNBC. Or, rather, a problem for Andy Lack, the NBC News executive who oversees MSNBC. It’s a pretty big problem: BIG ratings. Too big, in fact. Way too big.

    How can a TV station get ratings that are too big? Well, if the guy running it wants an excuse to turn the station into a right-wing Fox News clone, those record high anti-Trump ratings could become a problem:

    The Huffington Post

    With Trump In The White House, MSNBC Is Resisting The Resistance
    For a TV executive, Andy Lack has an unusual problem: sky-high ratings.

    By Ryan Grim
    05/01/2017 04:51 pm ET | Updated

    WASHINGTON – On Friday, readers of the new morning email put out by Mike Allen awoke to a little nugget of news. “One of your favorites is getting their own MSNBC show,” he teased in the subject line.

    That new host was none other than Nicolle Wallace, a former spokeswoman for President George W. Bush and, later, the 2008 presidential campaign of John McCain and Sarah Palin.

    New York magazine reported hours later that conservative activist and radio host Hugh Hewitt, already a regular contributor to MSNBC, was in talks with the network about a weekend show.

    From outside, it might seem odd to see the premier liberal network veering right, even as liberals around the country are fired up to resist the administration of President Donald Trump.

    But from inside, the news about Wallace and Hewitt was seen as just two more steps toward the full execution of the vision of Andy Lack, the NBC News executive who oversees MSNBC. He has made quite clear his plan to move the cable news network away from its bedrock liberalism and toward a more centrist approach personified by Brian Williams — even including hosts of a conservative bent, as typified by hosts like Megyn Kelly or Greta Van Susteren, who Lack brought over from Fox News.

    But Lack, in seeking to make this vision a reality, has an unusual problem for a TV executive: sky-high ratings. Since the election of Trump, MSNBC’s liberal primetime programs hosted by Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell have surged not just in ratings but in the share of the cable news audience they’re capturing. In its earnings call on Thursday, NBCUniversal specifically cited the boost in ratings to “The Rachel Maddow Show” for a spike in profits. Maddow has been the top show on cable news in the key demographic for two months running, an inconceivable achievement at MSNBC.

    Tossing those primetime hosts overboard while they’re raking in viewership and revenue has so far proved an elusive task.

    “Hayes, Maddow, O’Donnell – the entire primetime lineup is doing record numbers and Lack can’t stand it. It makes him furious,” said one senior MSNBC source, echoing the sentiment of many other insiders who spoke to HuffPost only on the condition of anonymity. (An NBC spokesman said Lack is happy with the high ratings.)

    The gap between the success of the primetime lineup and the investment of leadership in that very success has started to become public. O’Donnell, for instance, has the network’s second-most watched show, but it gets little in the way of promotion, a point he made himself on Twitter last week.

    Best promo ever written for my show. (No one else is writing them so there's really no competition but this is a great one.) https://t.co/0H8RGXUS9Z— Lawrence O'Donnell (@Lawrence) April 28, 2017

    O’Donnell’s contract will soon be up for renewal. Keeping the second-best performing show is typically not in question at most networks – but at MSNBC, it will test whether Lack gives into, or continues to resist, the energy of the resistance.

    Lack has targeted the network’s progressive programming since arriving at the network in spring 2015. He started with the daytime shows: Shows from Alex Wagner, Joy Reid and Ronan Farrow, as well as “The Cycle,” were canceled and replaced by straight news. (At the end of 2015, my own contract with MSNBC, which ran for three years, was not renewed; I had no interaction with Lack.) Lack brought in Chuck Todd to host a 5 p.m. show. He canceled Al Sharpton’s 6 p.m. show, and ran one from Bloomberg’s Mark Halperin and John Heilemann in its place.

    The Halperin-Heilemann program, which has since been canceled, was a hard-to-watch ratings disaster. Lack moved Van Susteren, formerly of Fox News, into the slot. That show has also been a ratings wreck. Across the board, shows that Lack has put his stamp on and moved to the center or to the right have not performed as well as the ones he has left alone, despite MSNBC’s ability to get the media-industry press to write flattering stories about the network’s “dayside turnaround.”

    “Every hour that Andy has not touched are the strongest hours on the network. Everything he has touched is lower rated,” said one well-placed insider.

    Van Susteren, for instance, looks like a pothole in ratings road. Typically, starting around noon and going until about 9 p.m., each cable news hour is more widely viewed than the one before. But Van Susteren actually loses audience from the hour before. Last Friday, for instance, Todd controlled a 21 percent share of the cable news audience at 5 p.m. Van Susteren fell to 17 percent at 6 p.m., losing more than 30,000 viewers. They come back at 7 p.m. for Chris Matthews, who pulled in a 26 percent share. Hayes kept 27 percent of the share and Maddow had 39 percent. The number dipped to 27 percent for O’Donnell at 10 p.m. (I have appeared frequently on all four shows, although presumably that will end following the publication of this story.)

    The daytime side, which is the testing ground for Lack’s theory that straight news is a stronger path forward, scores well below the progressive programming. In last Friday’s ratings, it pulled in a share of between 15 percent and 16 percent. The total numbers are lower as well, but using share is a fairer comparison, because it accounts for the difference in overall audience size.

    In an interview in December 2015, Lack was blunt about the direction he wanted to take MSNBC. He “explained why he has been toiling to re-brand MSNBC as a reliable provider of breaking news in contrast to its previous incarnation, personified by former anchor Keith Olbermann and other personalities such as Ronan Farrow, Joy Reid, and the Rev. Al Sharpton, as an outlet dominated by left-leaning hosts and pitched to like-minded viewers,” The Daily Beast reported.

    The goal, Lack said, was to get serious.

    “Had we not made this turn to breaking news with seriousness of purpose, in these times and in this election, we would have been clobbered,” Lack said. “As reasonable as that [discarded liberal] programming was for when it was created, we’re in a long game now. … This is maybe the most interesting election of my lifetime. … The world has never been more dangerous in my lifetime.” The bracketing of “discarded liberal” appears in the original interview, in which Lack lays out his plan to move more toward Williams and away from Maddow’s politics.

    Lack’s plan helps explain the awkward coverage following debates and on election night, which often put Maddow and Williams on screen next to each other. It was not a portrait of a network bringing forward a diversity of perspectives. Lack appeared ready to move in one direction, but couldn’t quite get his foot out of the other canoe.

    Hayes, Maddow and O’Donnell have stubbornly insisted on soaring in ratings since the election. In the first quarter of 2015, “The Rachel Maddow Show” was ranked 26th among all cable news shows. It was the seventh most-watched show in the first quarter of 2017. “The Last Word With Lawrence O’Donnell” and “All In With Chris Hayes” were 37th and 38th, respectively. “Last Word” is now No. 11, and Hayes’ show is coming in at No. 17. That’s real growth, because it considers where they were previously, and accounts for the rise in audience across the board that came with the election and the Trump presidency.

    Matthews, who airs at 7 p.m., has also seen a bit of a jump. Two years ago his show was ranked 30th, ahead of both Hayes and O’Donnell, and he’s now up to 19th, behind both. While he is certainly a shade or two left of center, his show is more Beltway-friendly fare. In his defense, he is working from a deficit, as he follows Van Susteren and Todd, who come in at 30th and 28th, respectively.

    The daytime programming has shown some gains under Lack’s leadership, even relative to other networks. But Lack may have misdiagnosed the problem that sapped MSNBC’s momentum in the later years of President Barack Obama’s administration. After the tea party wave in 2010, the Obama legislative agenda was stopped cold, leaving little for an audience to root for. But with Obama in the White House, there was also little to root against, which makes for terribly boring viewing. House leaders like John Boehner and Paul Ryan weren’t villainous on a Trumpian level, and Republicans didn’t capture the Senate until the 2014 midterms. Divided government with Democrats in the White House made for dull politics, and MSNBC’s programming paid the price across the board.

    “The Ed Show With Ed Schultz” at 5 p.m. was ranked 59th in the first quarter of 2015 in the key demographic, people between the ages of 25 and 54. Sharpton’s “Politics Nation” clocked in at No. 49. The noon show hosted by Wagner checked in at No. 66, with mid-afternoon shows by Reid and Farrow at Nos. 82 and 85.

    Van Susteren is doing better today – ranked 30th – than Sharpton did. But with bumps across the board – see the rise for Matthews – it’s impossible to say whether a more resistance-themed Sharpton show would be doing better than that. Todd’s show, meanwhile, has a better performance, with a rank of 28, than Schultz’s did But, again, where would a rage-filled Schultz be ranking with all the rage directed at Trump instead of Obama, an audience favorite? (It’s impossible to say: He’s now at RT.)

    Lack, according to a person close to him, was indeed concerned about primetime ratings in 2015 and 2016, as any executive would have been, particularly in the 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. hours. But he has become enthusiastic about the lineup as the viewers came back. Still, he believes that people want hard news and analysis during the day.

    The strategy, while it might make sense at noon, falls apart the closer it gets to primetime. It helps explain Van Susteren’s collapse at 6 p.m., and may swamp Wallace even as far back as 4 p.m. (A network spokesman said executives know new cable shows take a while to catch on with viewers, and are willing to be patient with Van Susteren.)

    Lack’s changes, insiders say, are motivated in large part by a desire to engineer the full resurrection of Williams. Deciding what to do with Williams, who had been exposed as a serial liar, was Lack’s first major decision when he returned to NBC in 2015. The plan he came up with — to move the former star anchor to MSNBC dayside and breaking news — set in motion the chain reaction that has led to today.

    Lack’s decisions have gone a long way to change the look of the network, taking it from the height of diversity to what it is now. In 2014, HuffPost analyzed a two-week stretch of programming , Fox News and CNN to quantify the level of on-air minority talent, specifically looking at African-American talent. MSNBC was far above the competition, with 46 segments in that period that featured an African-American host talking exclusively to African-American guests.

    That’s gone. Under Lack, MSNBC has lost black and brown talent, including Wagner, Melissa Harris Perry, Touré, Dorian Warren, Michael Eric Dyson, Adam Howard, Jamil Smith, Jose Diaz-Balart (who now hosts a Saturday night show on NBC) and Tamron Hall. Other people who have been shown the door under Lack include Abby Huntsman, Ed Schultz and Farrow. In their place have arrived folks like Van Susteren, Heilemann and Halperin, Wallace, Hewitt, Stephanie Ruhle, Hallie Jackson, Katy Tur and Kate Snow.

    Both Reid and Sharpton have been shunted to the weekends, although Reid appears frequently in primetime and as a substitute host. She hosts “AM Joy” from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturdays and Sundays.

    A February MSNBC press release boasting about ratings gains put “Morning Joe” on the top, noting it it had 849,000 total viewers. Scroll all the way to the bottom of the release, though, and you’ll find a data point that doesn’t do much to support Lack’s vision of the enterprise: More people are watching “AM Joy” than the network’s most celebrated morning program. On Saturdays, 981,000 people watched the program, and 810,000 tuned in on Sundays. That trend continues in other months, according to Nielsen data. “AM Joy” had 87,000 more total viewers than “Morning Joe” in April, and the weekday show slightly edged her out in the key demo. (Comparing a weekday morning show and Reid’s weekend show is apples-to-oranges, an NBC spokesman says.)

    Van Susteren may have beaten Reid by getting the coveted 6 p.m. slot, but Reid is still managing to generally beat her in viewership. Van Susteren’s “For the Record with Greta” averaged 902,000 viewers.

    Changing dynamics at the network became clear to the public when Perry made an internal critique early last year. “I will not be used as a tool for their purposes,” she wrote in an email that was later made public. “I am not a token, mammy, or little brown bobble head. I am not owned by Lack, [Phil] Griffin, or MSNBC. I love our show. I want it back.”

    “While MSNBC may believe that I am worthless, I know better,” added Perry, who is now a professor at Wake Forest University.

    “That was the sign to me that things had really gone down the tube,” said one former MSNBC employee. “A lot of us who had kept holding out hope kind of gave up.”

    The perception that Lack has eviscerated nonwhite talent at MSNBC has affected the way some of his interactions with black staff at MSNBC are viewed. This past spring, Lack reportedly asked a black senior producer if she could connect him with the writer Ta-Nehisi Coates. “It was like Trump asking April Ryan to hook him up with the [Congressional Black Caucus],” said one employee. (We’re withholding the name of the producer; a spokesman noted that Lack also asked Chris Hayes for Coates’ contact info.)

    During a call with bookers, Lack said to stop asking people he didn’t recognize to be guests. And late last summer, in front of countless staff, he told the MSNBC crew that he had walked to the office with his son, and his son suggested to him that he needed a star to show up for internal events. “I don’t have Drake. I don’t have Miley Cyrus. But I do have Yvette Miley,” he said.

    It was a corny riff, typical of Lack, who is what Michael Scott of “The Office” would have become had he studied at the Sorbonne. Lack, after he arrived, had put Miley in charge of diversity hiring at MSNBC and NBC. “She was named head of diversity and he continued firing black talent,” said one Miley friend.

    A different executive with a different record may have been forgiven for all three episodes, but much of this has happened with Lack before..

    One of Lack’s first major moves when he became president of NBC in 1993 was to replace “Today” show host Bryant Gumbel with Matt Lauer, sources said. Gumbel is black, and Lauer is white.

    “Andy pushed Bryant Gumbel out,” said a source familiar with how the shake-up went down. Lack didn’t fire Gumbel, but “he made him an offer he couldn’t accept,” the source said, a time-tested way of nudging talent out the door in the television industry. (Gumbel and Lack have since become good friends, the source added. And Lack replaced Williams with Lester Holt, the first black host of a Big Three news broadcast.)

    Lack oversaw the launch of MSNBC in 1996, which was originally conceived as a 24/7 extension of NBC News, in combination with something or other from Microsoft. The new channel stumbled along for several years without an identity. Then, in 2003, Lack left NBC to become chairman and CEO of Sony Music Entertainment.

    Shortly thereafter, MSNBC began drifting left. It was a similar environment to today, with liberal passion against the war in Iraq and its chief advocate, George W. Bush, peaking. Keith Olbermann tapped into the anger to become the network’s first real star. Phil Griffin, Olbermann’s executive producer, eventually rose to run all of MSNBC, and it is the shows put in place by Griffin that are performing the best today.

    Olbermann used his show to create new stars, bringing on the previously obscure Maddow as a frequent guest. When Maddow got her own time slot, she did the same by inviting Hayes, Steve Kornacki and others who became fixtures on the network to be guests.

    “This used to be the most amazing place to work, where I felt like my bosses, my colleagues, cared about me and cared about the world we live in,” said one employee who remains, for the time being, on staff. “Now I feel like I’m in a stereotypical news network, like something out of [the 1976 movie] ‘Network,’ yet we’re in the year 2017. We’ve come so far from what this place once was. It was a wonderful place to be, and now it’s just not.”

    Wallace is replacing Kornacki, the Maddow protege. (”Steve Kornacki is a rising star of political coverage on both MSNBC and NBC news and his portfolio is going to continue to expand,” an NBC exec said. “Phil Griffin considers Kornacki to have been a breakout star of the 2016 cycle.”)

    It must all look familiar to Tamron Hall. A longtime MSNBC host, she joined “Today” in February 2014, before Lack arrived. Sources said Lauer felt threatened by her rise; in any event, she suffered the same fate as Gumbel in February of this year. The network expressed sorrow at her departure in a written statement, but she did not make an on-air sign-off, a signal of the bitterness behind the move.

    Hall, a widely liked and talented anchor, had also been hosting an overperforming daytime MSNBC show. All morning shows have sagged in recent months, and NBC’s is no exception. But according to Nielsen ratings data, the show is down significantly since Hall left.

    And who is Lack’s ideal host to replace her?

    Megyn Kelly.

    ““Hayes, Maddow, O’Donnell – the entire primetime lineup is doing record numbers and Lack can’t stand it. It makes him furious,” said one senior MSNBC source, echoing the sentiment of many other insiders who spoke to HuffPost only on the condition of anonymity. (An NBC spokesman said Lack is happy with the high ratings.)”

    Yes, the stars aligned for a liberal-leaning news network like MSNBC and the networks right-wing CEO is furious. Furious that had doesn’t have an excuse to do what he’s doing anyway:


    New York magazine reported hours later that conservative activist and radio host Hugh Hewitt, already a regular contributor to MSNBC, was in talks with the network about a weekend show.

    From outside, it might seem odd to see the premier liberal network veering right, even as liberals around the country are fired up to resist the administration of President Donald Trump.

    But from inside, the news about Wallace and Hewitt was seen as just two more steps toward the full execution of the vision of Andy Lack, the NBC News executive who oversees MSNBC. He has made quite clear his plan to move the cable news network away from its bedrock liberalism and toward a more centrist approach personified by Brian Williams — even including hosts of a conservative bent, as typified by hosts like Megyn Kelly or Greta Van Susteren, who Lack brought over from Fox News.

    But Lack, in seeking to make this vision a reality, has an unusual problem for a TV executive: sky-high ratings. Since the election of Trump, MSNBC’s liberal primetime programs hosted by Chris Hayes, Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O’Donnell have surged not just in ratings but in the share of the cable news audience they’re capturing. In its earnings call on Thursday, NBCUniversal specifically cited the boost in ratings to “The Rachel Maddow Show” for a spike in profits. Maddow has been the top show on cable news in the key demographic for two months running, an inconceivable achievement at MSNBC.

    Lack has targeted the network’s progressive programming since arriving at the network in spring 2015. He started with the daytime shows: Shows from Alex Wagner, Joy Reid and Ronan Farrow, as well as “The Cycle,” were canceled and replaced by straight news. (At the end of 2015, my own contract with MSNBC, which ran for three years, was not renewed; I had no interaction with Lack.) Lack brought in Chuck Todd to host a 5 p.m. show. He canceled Al Sharpton’s 6 p.m. show, and ran one from Bloomberg’s Mark Halperin and John Heilemann in its place.

    The Halperin-Heilemann program, which has since been canceled, was a hard-to-watch ratings disaster. Lack moved Van Susteren, formerly of Fox News, into the slot. That show has also been a ratings wreck. Across the board, shows that Lack has put his stamp on and moved to the center or to the right have not performed as well as the ones he has left alone, despite MSNBC’s ability to get the media-industry press to write flattering stories about the network’s “dayside turnaround.”

    “Every hour that Andy has not touched are the strongest hours on the network. Everything he has touched is lower rated,” said one well-placed insider.

    Lack isn’t lacking a vision. He’s just lacking a excuse to do now that all his liberal hosts are experiencing record high ratings. And he’s pissed. And note how his vision appears to be the same vision he had for the channel when launch it back in 1996: a blah network without an identity:


    Lack oversaw the launch of MSNBC in 1996, which was originally conceived as a 24/7 extension of NBC News, in combination with something or other from Microsoft. The new channel stumbled along for several years without an identity. Then, in 2003, Lack left NBC to become chairman and CEO of Sony Music Entertainment.

    Shortly thereafter, MSNBC began drifting left. It was a similar environment to today, with liberal passion against the war in Iraq and its chief advocate, George W. Bush, peaking. Keith Olbermann tapped into the anger to become the network’s first real star. Phil Griffin, Olbermann’s executive producer, eventually rose to run all of MSNBC, and it is the shows put in place by Griffin that are performing the best today.

    That was his bold vision back then and undoing all the liberal branding that took place after he left in 2003 and returning to that identity-lacking vision is clearly his mission today. And the only thing standing his way right now is record high ratings. Record high ratings for just the liberals. And given that the Trump era is just getting underway there’s simply no legitimate business excuse for proceeding ahead with the de-liberalizing of the network. At least no business excuse for MSNBC’s owner, Comcast/NBC Universal. This bumper crop of ratings could go on for years.

    But, of course, there’s a massive indirect incentive for the oligarchs that own Comcast/NBC Universal to ditch the liberal-brand regardless of high ratings. Silencing left-wing voices and keeping Americans in the thrall of pro-corporate far-right ideas and memes pays for itself. Through a really, really misinformed, gullible electorate. And once Comcast, which is run by people closely connected to the Republican party, bought out NBC Universal it was pretty clear that it was just a matter of time before that media giant decided to ‘invest’ in creating an extra misinformed, gullible American electorate by slowly eliminating MSNBC’s liberal leaning. Don’t forget that Comcast made one of senior executives, Steve Burke, CEO of NBC Universal when it took over. And Burke was one of George W. Bush’s major fundraisers, he’s the son of Daniel Burke (who ran Bill Casey’s Capital Cities), and it was Burke who brought back Lack to run MSNBC in 2015 in the wake of the Brian Williams scandal.

    Again, it’s been pretty clear for a while that Comcast wants to Fox-ify MSNBC. But now the ratings for the liberals spiked which means they can do this transition plausibly. And that makes the prospect of some sort of MSNBC liberal boycott a lot more likely if they proceed with Andy Lack’s vision. Not that a formal boycott will be necessary since people will just stop watching the network due to the crappy right-wing hosts. But it’s still possible there’s going to be some sort of boycott to protest this. So don’t forget, if there is eventually an MSNBC boycott movement over this that won’t really make much sense since Comcast is clearly views an MSNBC nobody watches more preferable than a liberal MSNBC lots of people watch so an MSNBC boycott won’t really matter. It should actually be a Comcast boycott.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 2, 2017, 4:00 pm

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