Bo Dietl, a private investigator who is currently a candidate for mayor in New York City, admitted in an interview with the Wall Street Journal that he was hired to spy on female Fox News Channel employees who had alleged sexual harassment in an attempt to discredit their allegations.
A former city police detective, Dietl told the Journal that his firm was retained to investigate the backgrounds of two female Fox News employees, Gretchen Carlson and Andrea Mackris, who had initiated legal proceedings against network heavyweights. In 2004 Mackris sued onetime Fox News star Bill O'Reilly for serial sexual harassment. Carlson sued the network's then-CEO Roger Ailes in 2016 on similar grounds. Both men denied the charges but the two women were given multimillion-dollar settlements.
Dietl had previously claimed to the New York Daily News that he had been hired only once to investigate Mackris and that his hiring was done by a law firm representing the network, not Fox News itself.
He also had denied, in very circumspect language, that he had been hired by Ailes himself to dig up dirt on media-industry reporters.
"In big letters: never ever did Roger Ailes hire me to do any investigation of any journalist," Dietl told the newspaper.
The denial does not preclude the possibility that Dietl was hired or paid by someone else connected to Fox News, however.
Dietl is one of several people who are now being interviewed by federal attorneys who are looking into allegations that Ailes and other top-level Fox News executives failed to disclose numerous payments that were made to women who had alleged harassment at the cable news channel.
The criminal probe and an ever-expanding number of lawsuits against Fox News is imperiling the employment prospects of several network executives who have been accused of covering up mistreatment of employees. These allegations have already led to the ouster of Bill Shine, Fox News' former co-president and onetime chief aide to Ailes, and are swirling around the network's current general counsel Dianne Brandi.
Salon and several other publications have reported that Ailes had constructed an elaborate opposition research department, frequently referred to as the "black room" internally, which was tasked with monitoring Fox News critics and taking action against them. According to New York magazine, Dietl was one of the people who had been involved with these operations.
On Thursday Fox News became the target of yet another lawsuit by Jessica Golloher, a radio correspondent who alleges that the company told her she would be laid off one day after she had made a claim of harassment against a co-worker.
"Terminating an employee within 24 hours of utilizing the 'hotline' . . . is yet another indication of (Fox's) lack of oversight and retaliatory animus for those that are brave enough to report unlawful conduct," Golloher's lawyer, Douglas Wigdor, said in a statement.
A network spokesperson denied Golloher's claims in a statement to Reuters.