Ousted Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes and 21st Century Fox are in talks with Gretchen Carlson’s lawyers to settle the sexual harassment suit filed by the former anchor, according to people familiar with the discussions.
The talks, first reported by Vanity Fair, are an effort by the attorneys for Ailes and the parent company of the news operation he ran for 20 years to avoid a trial in which other alleged victims of sexual harassment might come forward publicly with their accounts. After Carlson’s complaint became public, other women contacted her lawyers to describe similar experiences with Ailes.
“The company does not want to subject any woman who came forward to a public trial,” said a person briefed on the matter who was not authorized to publicly comment.
While 21st Century Fox has agreed to pick up any legal costs or judgments incurred by Ailes, he would help fund any settlement. Ailes left the company with a severance of around $40 million.
A representative for 21st Century Fox declined to comment. A representative for Carlson’s attorneys had no information on the settlement talks.
Ailes, 76, resigned July 21, less than two weeks after 21st Century Fox launched an investigation of sexual harassment claims against him. The inquiry, which followed a suit filed July 6 by Carlson, alleged that Ailes sabotaged her career because she rebuffed his sexual advances and complained about a hostile work environment.
Carlson’s contract was not renewed in June after 11 years at Fox News Channel. She was earning more than $1 million annually in her last deal.
The investigation into harassment charges against Ailes, conducted by the law firm Paul, Weiss, is still ongoing. More than 25 women who have worked at Fox News have reportedly come forward to detail incidents of harassment.
According to one person briefed on the matter, the probe has not widened to include other executives at the company.
A number of women have told stories about Ailes’ alleged behavior toward them. A former Washington bureau staffer named Laurie Luhn said Ailes authorized a $3.15-million settlement for her to leave the company after she filed a sexual harassment complaint against him. The large amount is evidence of the autonomy Ailes had as he built Fox News into a major profit center at 21st Century Fox.
Ailes has denied all the allegations made by Carlson and the other women.