Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes stepped down Thursday amid multiple accusations of sexual harassment. He will be replaced by Rupert Murdoch, 21st Century Fox executive chairman.
The company announced that Ailes, who created and grew Fox News into the most watched cable news channel in the country, resigned from his role, effective immediately.
The departure follows the surfacing of several sexual harassment allegations by current and former female employees of Fox News, originally made public by former anchor Gretchen Carlson’s lawsuit filed earlier this month. Carlson said in the lawsuit that Ailes made unwanted sexual advances towards her and would make comments about her appearance that were sexual in nature. She claims she was fired for refusing his advances.
Ailes denies the accusations.
In a letter to Murdoch, Ailes said he did not want to become “a distraction.”
“I take particular pride in the role that I have played advancing the careers of the many women I have promoted to executive and on-air positions,” Ailes wrote Murdoch, according to the letter posted by Drudge Report. “Many of these talented journalists have deservedly become household names known for their intelligence and strength, whether reporting the news, fair and balanced, and offering exciting opinions on our opinion programs.”
Ailes said the powerhouse cable channel succeeded because he had “consistently identified and promoted the most talented men and women in television, and they performed at the highest levels.”
Murdoch credited Ailes for making a “remarkable contribution to our company and our country.”
“It is always difficult to create a channel or a publication from the ground up and against seemingly entrenched monopolies. To lead a flourishing news channel, and to build Fox Business, Roger has defied the odds,” Mudoch said in a statement. “His grasp of policy and his ability to make profoundly important issues accessible to a broader audience stand in stark contrast to the self-serving elitism that characterizes far too much of the media.”
The statement doesn’t acknowledge the sexual harassment allegations outright, but Lachlan and James Murdoch said they “continue [their] commitment to maintaining a work environment based on trust and respect.”
Ailes’ future with the company became uncertain as claims surfaced Tuesday that Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly said she had been sexually harassed by Ailes 10 years ago. According to Carlson’s legal team, more than 20 women have accused Ailes of sexual harassment dating as far back as the 1960s.
Following Thursday’s news that Ailes was stepping down, Carlson’s lawyer said it was her client’s “extraordinary courage” that had caused “a seismic shift in the media world.”
“We hope that all businesses now understand that women will no longer tolerate sexual harassment and reputable companies will no longer shield those who abuse women,” Carlson’s lawyer said in a statement.
Murdoch said he was taking over Fox News “to ensure continuity of all that is best about Fox News and what it stands for.” According to his letter, Ailes will act as an adviser to the company.
Kate Irby contributed to this report.