The Roger Ailes story continues to develop, with new reports of physical threats against an unofficial biographer of the former head of Fox News, reports of more women coming forward with harassment claims (in the double digits, according to one report), firming suggestions of a deeper probe at Fox by auditors and lawyers, and now suggestions in The Wall Street Journal that the Murdochs are getting the chequebook out to try to make the story go away.

A key issue will be whether the alleged behaviour stops with Ailes or whether others at the network enabled it by turning a blind eye to the claims, supporting Ailes, or just signing off on any deals without any investigation. The story is focusing more and more on the US$3.15 million settlement Ailes struck to end one claim of 20 years of harassment with one former Fox News employee, Laurie Luhn.

That the settlement of these emerging claims has made the pages of the Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal tells us that the proverbial is hitting the fan inside the empire and the Murdochs want the story to go away.

The New York Times weighed into the story on Thursday, but missed the point of where the story is now heading — its escaping the “she said, he said” claims of harassment and starting to threaten the 21st Century Fox accounts and draw the attention of regulators.

New York Magazine has more startling allegations that Ailes used money from the Fox News budget to employ “consultants, political operatives, and private detectives who reported only to him” and who targeted personal and political enemies, including journalists.

Top of the list is the US$3.15 million settlement Ailes made with Luhn, a former senior Fox News executive over her claims of 20 years of harassment. There are reports of similar agreements (undisclosed) with other women. The potential for the the settlement with Luhn contains the great dangers for the company and the board and management, so far as US regulators are concerned.

Peter Fray

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