By Casey Bukro
Television bosses normally like stories involving powerful men, beautiful women, sex, intrigue and big money. But the Roger Ailes story hits too close to home.
The longtime chairman of Fox News resigned in a sex scandal while Fox News parent company 21st Century Fox investigated accusations of sexual harassment and intimidation.
Ailes was sued by former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson for sexual harassment. That triggered more allegations against him, from both named and anonymous sources.
Now add questions about Ailes’ use of company funds “to hire consultants, political operatives and private detectives who reported only to him,” according to a New York magazine report, as part of a campaign to discredit Ailes’ personal and political enemies.
“Highly placed sources” tell Gabriel Sherman that in 2011 Ailes established a “Black Room” to conduct public relations and surveillance campaigns against people he targeted, including journalists. The article asks how Ailes was able to spend millions of dollars quietly to settle sexual harassment claims.
In reporting on the magazine’s allegations, CNN Money suggests the operation could violate of rules against corporate executives using company funds for personal reasons. “If true,” reported Dylan Byers, “such actions could make 21st Century Fox liable to its shareholders.”
Powerful men leave big trails. Vanity Fair contends that unnamed staffers still fear reprisal if they discuss Ailes.
Ailes cut a wider swath than anyone realized and now could become a poster boy for fixing what has been described as deep-seated sexual harassment habits at Fox, and maybe the rest of the television industry.
Shelley Ross, described as once one of the most powerful women in TV news, offers her “big idea” for addressing sexual harassment in the workplace.
It’s patterned after the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. After the official end of apartheid in 1994, victims of brutality were invited to speak publicly about their experiences. Attackers were invited to testify and ask for amnesty from civil and criminal prosecution.
Ross wrote about her idea in The Daily Beast “after watching, dodging and experiencing sexual harassment for 30 years.”
Too bad she did not speak up while in power.