Roger Ailes’ apparently-imminent departure from Fox News could trigger a mass walkout by the network’s top presenters, according to reports.
Conservative website Breitbart first revealed the threat on Wednesday, citing source quotes from two “top Fox News” hosts.
“We stand with Roger,” one said, with Breitbart naming 14 anchors who would be prepared to quit if Rupert Murdoch and his sons, Lachlan and James, force Ailes out. These include Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, and Greta Van Susteren.
“A lot of talent would be very concerned,” a source close to Ailes told the newspaper. “He’s made a tremendous amount of money for a lot of people: the Murdochs and the talent. Where Roger goes, the talent will go.”
The FT said the Murdochs, who run Fox News’ parent company 21st Century Fox, are attempting to negotiate an exit deal for Ailes that will prevent presenters leaving. A $40 million (£30 million) agreement is being thrashed out, the FT said, complete with non-compete and no-poaching clauses.
It follows a report in the newspaper on Tuesday, which revealed that Fox News anchors — including O’Reilly, Hannity and Van Susteren — have clauses in their contracts that allow them to leave if Ailes heads for the exit.
Ailes’ Fox News career is in the balance following the explosive sexual-harassment lawsuit filed against him by former anchor Gretchen Carlson. The allegations have been strongly disputed by Ailes, who has called the them “false” and “offensive.”
The New York Magazine reported on Tuesday that Megyn Kelly, a prominent Fox News presenter, has also made allegations against Ailes as part of 21st Century Fox’s investigation into Carlson’s claims. The allegations of “unwanted sexual advances” are said to date back 10 years.
Breitbart reported that the 14 Fox News anchors it names “stand against” Kelly.
A presenter told the website: “Real anger has emerged that the so-called Megyn incident happened 10 years ago. The consensus among the hosts and contributors is: ‘Why didn’t she say anything then?'”