The Fox News Channel’s days as a reliably right-leaning news source may be numbered, according to media watchers.
Monday’s Morning Media report from Politico claims that in the wake of Roger Ailes’ departure from the network in disgrace, there are questions about whether Fox News will continue to offer the same type of right-slanted programming that has made its fortune over the course of two decades.
Rupert Murdoch has stepped in as interim CEO and director of Fox News, but has made it known that he will be handing the operation over to his sons. Rumors have flown for years that the Murdoch sons — who are more liberal than their 85-year-old media magnate father — are embarrassed by the right-wing antics regularly featured on the network.
While some in the industry argue that Murdoch would never give up the lucrative cash cow that Fox News has become, others say that the network is losing its cachet with viewers. Fox’s audience is aging and dying off, they argue, and many once-loyal viewers have abandoned the network in favor of alt-right media sources like Breitbart.com.
“Ailes’ number may well have been up soon enough anyway; the real question the new allegations continue to raise is what, if anything, Ailes can manage for a next act,” Politico said.
The former Nixon aide was forced to step down due to findings by an internal investigation conducted by the law firm Paul, Weiss into a reportedly widespread and deeply entrenched culture of sexism, harassment and bullying at the company. Female employees were regularly told that to move up the company ladder they must perform sexual favors for higher-ups.
In early July, former Fox anchor Gretchen Carlson launched a sexual harassment lawsuit against Ailes, alleging that he repeatedly pressured her to enter into a sexual relationship in order to advance her career. That suit was aimed directly at Ailes and not at Fox News management in general.
However, on Friday, New York magazine editor Gabriel Sherman published an explosive profile of former Fox News employee Laurie Luhn who said that Ailes sexually harassed, abused, bullied and coerced her to the point that she has had multiple breakdowns.
Implicated in the abuse and cover-up are Fox News executives Bill Shine, Dianne Brandi and others who enabled Ailes and silenced women like Luhn with multi-million dollar severance packages that contain “iron-clad nondisclosure provisions.”
Luhn’s story mirrors that of former Fox News reporter Rudi Bakhtiar, who was demoted and marginalized within the network after she turned down the sexual advances of Washington, DC bureau chief Brian Wilson. When she threatened to go public with the accusations, Fox News settled with her out of court and again demanded silence.
Media Matters — an organization that has done some of the most detailed scrutiny of Fox News and its culture — said that Fox urgently needs to “clean house” if it wants to survive.
“(I)f James and Lachlan make no concerted effort to fix the widespread problems facing the women working at Fox News, that means James and Lachlan will soon own that problem and that stigma,” wrote Eric Boehlert. “I don’t expect Fox News to become a beacon of journalism anytime soon. But it’s hard to justify allowing Fox News to continue to reward an outdated, hands-on, Mad Men culture.”