There are media earthquakes. And then there is the Big One.
Roger Ailes is reportedly in negotiations to leave Fox News under the cloud of sexual harassment claims that began with former morning host Gretchen Carlson and allegedly snowballed to include star prime time anchor Megyn Kelly and other women.
The Financial Times is reporting that Ailes departure comes with a $40 million buyout. A statement released by 21st Century Fox said that Ailes is currently at work. “The review is ongoing. And the only agreement that is in place is his existing employment agreement.”
The tectonic shift of Ailes leaving the network he built into a monstrously profitable enterprise – throwing off more than a billion a year in profit – could have an even greater impact on our national politics.
Fox News is more than an arm of the Republican party. As a source once put it to me, the network has become the torso.
What comes next? Will the network continue its role as a farm team and incubator of top GOP political talent? The place John Kasich cools his jets with a cushy hosting gig between his time as a GOP congresman and Ohio governor?
Will future vice presidential contenders have to suspend their ties to the network when the vetting gets serious, as Newt Gingrich did in recent days?
These are the open and unsettled questions now facing Fox News. And their resolution will likely have a greater impact on the Republican Party than anything going down in the convention in Cleveland this week.
For now, let’s cast a glance back at how Ailes – once the Michelangelo of GOP consultants – built his media-political empire.