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.I want to believe this. You have no idea how much I want to believe it. I hate what Ailes has done to this country.
But I don't believe it, because Sherman's reporting on Fox, remarkable as it's been, previously led us to expect a comeuppance for Ailes that never materialized.
Back in June 2015, Sherman wrote this:
Roger Ailes’s Demotion Signals Power Shift Within Murdoch EmpireAs I wrote a few weeks later:
... Yesterday, 21st Century Fox announced that Ailes would be reporting to Lachlan and James Murdoch. For Ailes, it was a stinging smack-down and effectively a demotion.
Just five days earlier, Ailes released what now appears to be a rogue statement to his own Fox Business channel declaring that he would be unaffected by the announcement that Lachlan and James will take control of Fox as part of Rupert's succession plan. "Roger Ailes will continue to run the news network, reporting directly to Rupert Murdoch," Fox Business reported. According to a well-placed source, Ailes directed Fox Business executive Bill Shine to tell anchor Stuart Varney to read the statement on air. "Ailes told Shine to write the announcement of the move for Varney to say," the source said. "In it, Ailes inserted language that he would report to Rupert."
This was, apparently, news to Rupert. And now the Murdochs are correcting the record. "Roger will report to Lachlan and James," a 21st Century Fox spokesperson told The Hollywood Reporter.
... that was supposed to be a huge problem for Ailes because he'd feuded with both Lachlan and James, and because James is reportedly much more liberal than his father.The result was that nothing really changed at Fox -- Ailes kept running the place exactly the way he always had.
The takeover happened on July 1 -- but six days earlier, Ailes signed a new contract that will keep him as head of Fox News into 2018. A press release said he'd "jointly report" to Rupert, James, and Lachlan Murdoch -- and, as a CNNMoney story noted, "in practice, that may mean Rupert will continue to call the shots when it comes to Fox."
My guess is that Sherman gets all this from James, Lachlan, or both, or allies of theirs, and that these are attempts to use the media to let Ailes know he's not wanted. The younger Murdochs may actually believe Ailes will quit to avoid the humiliation of being fired -- but they may have thought he'd quit after last summer's humiliation, and that didn't happen. Instead, he fought back and won.
I think Big Daddy Rupert still wants Ailes around. So maybe this story is true, but I think it's more likely that Ailes will hang on for now, after his inevitable pushback and a round or two of official denials of Sherman's story from Fox.
But I really, really hope I'm wrong.