Roger Ailes was accused in a July lawsuit by former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson of acute acts of sexual harassment, including an alleged request for her to turn around so that he could check out her posterior. He denied it. An internal probe at Fox News commissioned by its parent company turned up other allegations. He denied them.
And now he’s denying the rather strong claims of Fox News megastar Megyn Kelly in her new book, “Settle for More.” A decade ago, not long after she was hired as a reporter in Fox News’s Washington bureau, Ailes began harassing her, a pattern that got extreme in a January 2006 encounter in which Ailes allegedly attempted to grab her and kiss her on the lips, according to her book. When she rejected his advances, Ailes reportedly asked her, “When is your contract up?”
After Carlson sued Ailes for sexual harassment, Kelly chimed in with her experiences for an internal probe at Fox News. Ailes was ousted from his job in July. And from exile, he has issued all manner of denials.
Susan Estrich, a lawyer representing Ailes, on Monday passed along this particular one:
I categorically deny the allegations Megyn Kelly makes about me. I worked tirelessly to promote and advance her career, as Megyn herself admitted to Charlie Rose. Watch that interview and then decide for yourself.
My attorneys have restricted me from commenting further — so suffice it to say that no good deed goes unpunished.
One part of this is beyond refutation, and that’s that Ailes helped Kelly’s career. As she makes clear in her book, the Ailes-managed Fox News promoted her when she was on maternity leave. By the time Ailes departed, she had become a big part of the network’s branding. She anchored election night coverage, hosted debates and was featured in several splashy magazine covers that Fox News’s PR department facilitated.
Regarding that Charlie Rose interview, Kelly in October 2015 told the host that she regarded Ailes as a mentor. “We’re not equals, but I depend on him for friendship and sane, honest advice,” she said.
When these incidents allegedly occurred, the Erik Wemple Blog was busy trying to stay employed at the Washington City Paper, not eavesdropping on Ailes’s tightly protected New York office. So we have no direct knowledge of what went down. Two points, however, bear on the matter: One is that Kelly has every right to put on a happy public face when asked about her boss, even if he once allegedly harassed her. The other is this: What possible incentive would Kelly have to lie about this long-ago sequence of events?