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Fox News CEO Roger Ailes resigns amid sexual harassment scandal

Ailes, who has been in charge of Fox News since the network launched in 1996, was ousted after former anchor Gretchen Carlson filed a lawsuit against him.

by Brendan James
Jul 21 2016, 9:00pm

Photo by Fred Prouser/Reuters

Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes officially resigned on Thursday, leaving the cable channel he built into the one of the largest, most influential, and most infamous news networks on the planet.

Ailes' resignation is "effective immediately," Fox's parent company 21st Century Fox said in a statement. Those two words carry serious weight for the operations at Fox News, where Ailes was a feared, respected, and omnipresent force for more than 20 years.

The abrupt departure follows a week of damaging reports by New York magazine that said Fox host Gretchen Carlson brought a lawsuit against Ailes for sexual harassment. Many other women have reportedly joined in, and the company has launched investigation into Ailes' conduct.

Superstar anchor Megyn Kelly is among the women who told investigators that she too had been harassed, according to New York.

The company did not announce a permanent replacement in its statement, but said 85-year-old Rupert Murdoch will assume the role of "acting" chairman and CEO for Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network.

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"Roger Ailes has made a remarkable contribution to our company and our country," Murdoch said in the statement. "Roger shared my vision of a great and independent television organization and executed it brilliantly over 20 great years."

Murdoch, who set out in the mid-'90s to dominate the cable news market after a failed attempt to acquire rival Ted Turner's startup CNN, financed Ailes' vision of an unapologetically right-wing news operation that nevertheless sported the now iconic — and widely mocked — slogan "Fair and Balanced."

Next steps are sure to involve the counsel of Murdoch's two sons, James, CEO of 21st Century Fox, and Lachlan, executive co-chairman of that company as well as News Corp. The two siblings were known to be at odds with Ailes throughout his reign at Fox, resulting in several public spats.

They mentioned Ailes in their remarks only once: "We join our father in recognizing Roger's remarkable contributions to our company."

The rest of their statement, notably, focused on their "talented Fox News and Fox Business colleagues, up and down the organization and on both sides of the camera."

"For them, as well as for our colleagues across our entire organization, we continue our commitment to maintaining a work environment based on trust and respect," the statement ended, with a nod to the allegations against Ailes. "We take seriously our responsibility to uphold these traditional, long-standing values of our company."

Follow Brendan James on Twitter: @deep_beige