he Roger Ailes story gets murkier by the day. US magazine Vanity Fair has claimed that there are audio tapes recorded by a number of women who were “in conversations” with Ailes. Vanity Fair claims the existence of these tapes was hastening the settlement of the sexual harassment suit brought against Ailes by Gretchen Carlson, a former Fox News host.

Ailes has denied all the allegations, but Vanity Fair claims the existence of these tapes is why his lawyers are trying to force the negotiations with Carlson’s lawyers into private arbitration so that the contents of the tapes are not played in open court. Vanity Fair also claimed the settlement with Carlson could be in the “eight figures”. The magazine didn’t say what was on the tapes, but many speculate the contents are not helpful to Ailes’ defence.

And there are more reports of spying by Ailes’ so-called “black ops” group at Fox News with one CNN reporter claiming that a Fox News staffer he was dating a few years ago was, in fact, spying on him and reporting back to Ailes. Brian Stelter is a leading critic of Ailes and Fox News. Stelter told a US media outlet, New Day:

“About 10 years ago I had a crush on a woman at Fox News. She was a low level staffer. I was in college at the time. So I was going out on what I thought were dates. Chris, I thought these were dates. These were not dates. She was actually reporting back to Fox News about me. She was reporting back about what I thought of her and about CNN and MSNBC and Fox. Because I was a reporter on the beat, they were actually spying on me that way.”

Andrew Butcher, the former News Corp PR (and now Australian political lobbyist) has an interesting word in the story:

“Roger ruled with a heavy dose of implied threats—to journalists, staff, and even colleagues who didn’t work for him—and psychological games,” former News Corp. P.R. executive Andrew Butcher told me (the Vanity Fair article author, Sarah Ellison) . “Roger deserves to end his career in disgrace,” Butcher continued. “It seems that Rupert’s tolerance of his excesses has finally been rejected as Lachlan and James modernize Fox and bring it in line with what is acceptable in a 21st-century workplace.”

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey