After Ailes: 'Friends of Roger' exodus expected at embattled Fox News

What the growing Roger Ailes scandal means for Fox News
What the growing Roger Ailes scandal means for Fox News

What began with Gretchen Carlson's lawsuit ends with -- well, actually no one knows how this story will end.

Just about every day brings new allegations about the behavior of ousted Fox News boss Roger Ailes. Taken together, the claims -- which Ailes has denied -- portray an executive who abused his power by harassing female employees and paying confidants to dig up dirt on his opponents.

Now Ailes is gone, and some of his longtime associates are also on the way out.

"Longtime friends of Roger's dating back to the '70s are beginning to exit the building," a senior source said Wednesday.

Ties were already severed with five Ailes consultants, as New York magazine first reported. But another wave of departures is expected, two sources said.

Related: Fox News staff feared Ailes was monitoring them

It is clear from interviews with people inside Fox News that the network has been shaken to its core.

Ailes is the only CEO Fox News has ever had. He launched the channel in 1996 and ran it as a fiefdom, grooming an entire generation of hosts, reporters and producers who feel indebted to him. He set the cultural tone of the place.

With Ailes deposed -- one veteran staffer compared it to the sudden death of a Middle Eastern strongman -- there is widespread uncertainty about the status of on- and off-air talent alike.

At the moment, the Fox News executive leadership team remains in place. Acting CEO Rupert Murdoch and programming chief Bill Shine, who are said to be running the network side by side, are trying to stabilize things.

But the law firm retained by 21st Century Fox (FOX) to investigate Ailes' behavior continues to ferret out new information. This so-called internal review by Paul, Weiss, announced on the same day Carlson sued, remains a mystery to Fox News staffers.

21st Century Fox has not said how long Paul, Weiss will remain on the job. A spokesman for the Murdochs declined to comment on a number of questions about Ailes and Fox, citing the fact that the review is unfinished.

The saga is increasingly being compared to the News Corp. phone hacking scandal that scarred another part of the Murdoch empire, its newspaper division, in the mid to late 2000s.

Reporters and editors at the company's British papers were revealed to have illegally hacked into phones and bribed police officers while chasing stories. The illegal behavior was exposed over a period of five years, eventually resulting in settlements and public apologies by the Murdochs.

Murdoch newspaper editor turned Murdoch critic Andrew Neil, who was a victim of phone hacking, tweeted Wednesday: "As more comes out about dark arts/ops under Roger Ailes at Fox News, much speculation that this is Murdoch's U.S. version of hacking scandal."

These "dark arts" included spying on journalists and other people who Ailes considered to be enemies. One of the sources said Ailes' "henchmen" were especially active against Gabriel Sherman, the author of a 2014 biography of Ailes.

Politico on Wednesday quoted a source who recalled Ailes saying, "I know where" Sherman lives, "and I'm gonna send people to beat the shit out of him."

The source also said they were told by another person that if the full scope of Ailes' campaign against Sherman ever came out, "multiple people at Fox would go to jail."

What crimes could have possibly been committed is unclear.

Related: Ailes' alleged use of Fox funds raises liability questions

Meanwhile, there is a fresh focus on Ailes' spending habits.

Ailes, through Fox News, employed a number of longtime friends as consultants, for purposes that remain unknown.

One of the consultants earned $10,000 a month by submitting a monthly invoice to Fox.

Sherman reported on Sunday that "one of the consultants, Bert Solivan, ran negative PR campaigns against Ailes' personal and political enemies." He said Solivan and four others were dismissed.

The names of the other "friends of Roger," as they were known internally, were shared by a source on condition of anonymity.

One of them, Jon Kraushar, was the co-author of Ailes' 1988 book "You Are The Message." He is identified on the Fox News website, where he wrote occasional columns, as a communications consultant.

Kraushar did not respond to requests for comment. Neither did John Huddy Sr., the father of two on-air personalities who work for Fox.

A Facebook page for Huddy says he has been an "executive consultant" at Fox since 2000. The page says he helped produce various shows for Fox News and the broadcast network.

Another consultant was Robert L. Dilenschneider, a well-known public relations executive who has represented Fox host Lou Dobbs, among many others.

Reached by email this week, Dilenschneider said "I know Roger but that is all." He declined to elaborate on his work for Ailes.

Finally, another consultant could not be reached for comment, but shows up in press clippings as a veteran producer who helped launch TV shows with Ailes in the early 1990s.

"Roger keeps his friends close, very close," a source said.

Ailes and his allies have remained relatively quiet since his resignation, aside from issuing denials about new allegations.

But Ailes has a long memory. When Fox News launched in 1996, he warned a New York magazine reporter who was profiling him, "Take your best shot at me, and I'll have the rest of my life to go after you."


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