Founding Fox News CEO, Roger Ailes, who spent two decades building the conservative news network into a ratings behemoth, will leave the network amidst accusations of sexual harassment, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Ailes will step down from his post immediately, with 21st Century Fox founder Rupert Murdoch assuming the role of chairman and acting CEO of Fox News and its sister channel, Fox Business Network.
The sexual harassment claims leveled against Ailes began with a lawsuit filed by former morning host Gretchen Carlson and snowballed to include other women including star prime time anchor Megan Kelly. But despite the accusations, Ailes will likely walk away with a hefty buyout, with some sources placing the number at $40 million, and others reporting up to $60 million.
Ailes has been the CEO of Fox News since its founding in 1996 and over his 20-year tenure had meticulously molded the network into a profitable conservative juggernaut. The network has played a dual role, contributing 25 percent to 21st Century Fox’s bottom line and functioning as a virtual mouthpiece for the Republican party.
As Rolling Stone‘s Tim Dickinson wrote in 2011, “[Ailes] has created a vast stage set, designed to resemble an actual news network, that is literally hard-wired into the homes of millions of America’s most conservative voters. GOP candidates then use that forum to communicate directly to their base, bypassing the professional journalists Ailes once denounced as ‘matadors’ who want to ‘tear down the social order’ with their ‘elitist, horse-dung, socialist thinking.’ Ironically, it is Ailes who has built the most formidable propaganda machine ever seen outside of the Communist bloc, pioneering a business model that effectively monetizes conservative politics through its relentless focus on the bottom line.”