Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes blasted ousted host Gretchen Carlson, saying her allegations of "sexual harassment" are untrue and are in retaliation to the network's decision not to renew her contract.
"This is a retaliatory suit for the network’s decision not to renew her contract, which was due to the fact that her disappointingly low ratings were dragging down the afternoon lineup," he said Wednesday evening in a statement.
Fox & Friends hosts Steve Doocy, Gretchen Carlson and Brian Kilmeade during 'FOX & Friends' All American Concert Series outside of FOX Studios on July 19, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images)
According to Carlson's complaint, the former Fox News anchor "rebuffed Ailes’ sexual demands … and, nine months later, [he] ended her career." It also claims the chairman made "sexual advances by various means."
Carlson's contract was up on June 23, when she planned to take a vacation for her 50th birthday. When her show concluded at 3 p.m. that day, Carlson's co-counsel Nancy Erika Smith, a lawyer with Smith Mullin P.C., told Politico "The Real Story" host was called in and told she was fired.
Carlson, who worked for the network for 11 years, had reportedly tried to start renegotiations on her contract in March, but was turned down. Given previous contracts had been negotiated last minute, Carlson did not suspect there were any issues.
Blindsided by Fox News' decision to terminate her contract, Ailes believes Carlson is using the lawsuit to get back at the network.
Here is Ailes' statement in full:
Gretchen Carlson’s allegations are false. This is a retaliatory suit for the network’s decision not to renew her contract, which was due to the fact that her disappointingly low ratings were dragging down the afternoon lineup. When Fox News did not commence any negotiations to renew her contract, Ms. Carlson became aware that her career with the network was likely over and conveniently began to pursue a lawsuit. Ironically, FOX News provided her with more on-air opportunities over her 11 year tenure than any other employer in the industry, for which she thanked me in her recent book. This defamatory lawsuit is not only offensive, it is wholly without merit and will be defended vigorously.
But according to Smith, Carlson's ratings were trending upward when she was fired "with no reason given."
"She was called in after a live broadcast and terminated in less than a minute with no reason given. 'That was your last show,’ period," she said. "At a time when her total viewership was up 33 percent and she was most frequently number one in her time slot, unless there was breaking news. Clearly this wasn’t a legitimate business reason."
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