Former Fox News chief Roger Ailes allegedly used his unchecked latitude in setting Fox News’ budget to hire consultants and private detectives who ran campaigns to aggressively target Ailes’ personal enemies in the media, according to a new report from New York Magazine.
Gabriel Sherman reported that consultants working out of what was known as “the Black Room” at News Corp plotted to have Gawker executive editor John Cook followed around his Brooklyn neighborhood and also planned to attack Cook, whose wife is Jewish, as anti-Semitic.
The revelations reportedly came during a review of how Ailes, who resigned July 21 amid swirling sexual harassment allegations, spent Fox News funds during his tenure. Three anonymous sources told the magazine that Ailes went unchecked in setting the network’s budget.
“It was the culture,” one unnamed Fox executive told Sherman. “You didn’t ask questions, and Roger wouldn’t entertain questions.”
Citing a “highly placed source,” Sherman also reported Fox News consultants targeted Joe Lindsley, who edited Ailes’ local newspaper, the News and Recorder. After Lindsley quit the paper following a falling out with Ailes, the former Fox boss allegedly had the editor followed around Putnam County and eventually enlisted former Fox News host Andrea Tantaros to contact Lindsley about his whereabouts and report back.
Negative PR operations also reportedly were run out of the “Black Room” by one of Ailes’ hand-picked consultants, Bert Solivan. A Fox News spokesperson confirmed to Sherman that Solivan was no longer with the company, and an anonymous source told him that five consultants who reported to Ailes were fired last week.
Sherman himself was the target of a negative PR campaign in 2012, when he was researching a biography of Ailes. An anonymous source confirmed to the reporter that private investigators were instructed to follow him and his wife, while operatives also launched online attacks on his reputation.
Through his attorney, Susan Estrich, Ailes said, “These allegations are totally false.”