Rupert Murdoch, the co-executive chairman of 21st Century Fox, said Thursday that the multiple sexual harassment scandals that rocked Fox News were “all nonsense,” aside from that of the network’s late chairman Roger Ailes.
“How harmful has the whole raft of allegations about sexual harassment at Fox News been for the business?” Sky News’ Ian King asked Murdoch, during a discussion of his multibillion dollar deal with Disney. Murdoch is in the middle of a years-long effort to purchase Sky, the British satellite broadcasting company in which he already has a partial stake.
“Oh, that’s all nonsense,” Murdoch said. “There was a problem with our chief executive, sort of over the years, but isolated instances. As soon as we investigated it, he was out of the place within hours.”
“Well, three or four days,” Murdoch hedged.
That vastly downplays the scope of the allegations against Ailes, which included more than two dozen women and went back decades. Ailes hired private investigators to trail his accusers and the journalists covering them and pursued those who spoke out, as journalist Gabriel Sherman so thoroughly documented. The company paid tens of millions of dollars to keep Ailes’ and others’ accusers quiet.
Murdoch continued: “And there’s been nothing else since then. But that was largely political, because we’re conservative. Of course, all the liberals are going down the drain: NBC is in deep trouble, CBS, their stars. You know, I think it’s a very interesting subject we could go into at length, but there are really bad cases that people should be moved aside, and there are other things which probably amount to a bit of flirting.”
The media mogul’s references to his competitors are likely nods to NBC and CBS severing their relationships with star anchors Matt Lauer and Charlie Rose, respectively, each accused with habitual sexual harassment of their coworkers, including sexual assault in Lauer’s case.
But Murdoch’s claim that there was “nothing else” aside from the sexual harassment allegations against Ailes is false.
Charles Payne was briefly suspended during an investigation of claims made by Scottie Nell Hughes, who accused Payne of raping her and Fox News of punishing her for the accusation. And tape recently resurfaced of Bette Milder accusing Geraldo Rivera and a producer of sexually assaulting her decades ago. Rivera issued a non-apology. Payne maintains his innocence.