Roger Ailes resigned Thursday as chairman of Fox News, Fox Business and Fox television stations, effective immediately, in the wake of a sexual harassment lawsuit that led to days of negotiations about his departure.
Rupert Murdoch, executive chairman of parent company 21st Century Fox, who hired Ailes to launch Fox News two decades ago, said in a company statement that he would take over as chairman and acting CEO of Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network.
“Roger Ailes has made a remarkable contribution to our company and our country,” Murdoch said in the statement. “Roger shared my vision of a great and independent television organization and executed it brilliantly over 20 great years.” He added that Fox has “given voice to those who have been ignored by the traditional networks.”
The statement made no direct reference to the circumstances that led to the departure of Ailes. But it included comments from the media mogul’s sons, Lachlan Murdoch and James Murdoch, who occupy top positions at 21st Century Fox, saying that “we continue our commitment to maintaining a work environment based on trust and respect. We take seriously our responsibility to uphold these traditional, long-standing values of our company.”
The Murdoch sons, who are widely reported to have been at odds with Ailes, added their praise in the statement:
“We join our father in recognizing Roger’s remarkable contributions to our company. Our talented Fox News and Fox Business colleagues, up and down the organization and on both sides of the camera, have built something that continues to redefine the cable news experience for millions of viewers.”
The sequence of events that led to Ailes’ departure began when Gretchen Carlson sued Ailes earlier this month after her contract as a daytime Fox host was not renewed. Ailes strongly denied her allegations of sexual harassment and wrongful termination.
That prompted 21st Century Fox to order an internal inquiry into the matter. The initial findings from that review, which included interviews with female Fox employees, led to the negotiations that have just concluded.
While Rupert Murdoch is assuming the role of “acting CEO” at Fox News, he said Ailes' top executive team -- Bill Shine, senior executive vice president of programming at Fox News Channel; Jay Wallace, executive vice president of news and editorial at Fox News Channel; and Mark Kranz, chief financial officer at Fox News Channel -- would remain in place.
Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m.). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz.