In light of the news that the Walt Disney Company had reached a deal to acquire most of 21st Century Fox, executive c0-chairman Rupert Murdoch spoke to Sky News TV about the move and other business matters at the empire.
But when the topic of sexual harassment allegations came up and whether they affected the network, Murdoch called the accusations "nonsense."
"It's all nonsense," he said. "There was a problem with our chief executive, over the year, isolated incidents." Former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes stepped down in 2016 after over 20 women accused him of sexual harassment, and News Corp paid $45 million in settlements related to those allegations. Upon his departure, Ailes was awarded a $40 million exit package.
Murdoch told Sky News TV, "As soon as we investigated he was out of the place in hours — well three or four days. And there has been nothing else since then."
Since then, since Ailes left News Corp, there has actually been quite a bit else.
The network's biggest star, Bill O'Reilly was fired in April following numerous sexual harassment allegations and after the New York Times discovered that Fox had paid at least $13 million in settlements over complaints made against him. The network also terminated host Eric Bolling in September, after Huff Post reported that Bolling had sent unsolicited pictures of his genitalia to at least three female colleagues. Host Chris Payne was also suspended this summer after allegations of sexual harassment. He was later reinstated.
Murdoch claims the accusations were "largely political because we are conservative. The liberals are going down the drain. NBC is in deep trouble."
The media industry, like Hollywood, the food industry and politics, has come under scrutiny for a culture of predation by men in power and systematic sexual misconduct. From NBC's Matt Lauer, to CBS's Charlie Rose, to PBS's Tavis Smily, allegations of sexual harassment or assault have not been confined to conservatives. But to ignore how pervasive allegations specifically at Fox News have been is a very selective understanding of this current moment.
"There are really bad cases and people should be moved aside," Murdoch said. "There are other things — which probably amount to a bit of flirting." According to Sky News, the 86-year-old said that he did not believe sexual misconduct allegations had "affected investor sentiment towards his businesses."