Roger Ailes, who built Fox News into a powerhouse with far-reaching influence throughout U.S. politics but especially within the Republican Party, will leave the network in the wake of allegations of sexual harassment, according to people briefed on the matter.
Ailes, 76, will depart 21st Century Fox (FOXA) 's Fox News with a $40 million payout, according to the Drudge Report. Several other news organizations, including the Daily Beast and Variety, confirmed the headlines that ripped across social media as Republicans gather in Cleveland this week to nominate Donald Trump for president.
In a statement, however, the New York-based company led by Rupert Murdoch denied the reports, asserting that the network's chairman and chief executive remains at his job while an investigation by outside lawyers looks into the allegations of sexual harassment made earlier this month by former anchor Gretchen Carlson, who sued Ailes in a New Jersey state court.
"Roger is at work," the company said in an e-mail. "The review is ongoing. And the only agreement that is in place is his existing employment agreement," a spokesman wrote via email.
The departure of Ailes would come after other women at Fox News were said to describe similar instances of sexual harassment as described by Carlson. In a blistering complaint, Carlson alleged that Ailes "sabotaged her career because she refused his sexual advances and complained about severe and pervasive sexual harassment."
Pressure on Murdoch appeared to intensify after New York magazine reported on Tuesday that Megyn Kelly, the network's rising star, had also told of being sexually harassed by Ailes about ten years ago when she was first hired as a correspondent.
Additionally, CNBC reported that Murdoch and his sons James and Lachlan, had arranged for Ailes to leave the network that he help found in 1996 after a career in politics that included handling media strategy for Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. The New York law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison was hired by Fox to conduct an internal investigation into Fox News' workplace environment, and to offer legal assistance related to Carlson's lawsuit.
Carlson filed her sexual harassment claim on July 6 in a New Jersey state court, alleging that when Carlson met with Ailes in fall 2015 to discuss what she describes as a pervasive culture of sexual harassment, he said, "I think you and I should have had a sexual relationship a long time ago and then you'd be good and better and I'd be good and better," adding that "sometimes problems are easier to solve" that way.
Ailes has maintained his innocence, calling Carlson's allegations "a retaliatory suit" for low ratings.