-- The silence was the sign.
“And what about Megyn?” was the question asked inside Ailes’ war room. “There’s a problem with Megyn. Let’s talk offline.”
The following is an account from inside Fox, based on interviews with multiple sources with direct knowledge of what occurred. Ailes’ attorney, Susan Estrich, did not respond to a request for comment.
Though such an exit was almost unthinkable just a week earlier, Ailes had already come to grips with what was the shocking new reality.
The crisis exploded July 6 when former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson filed a sex-harassment lawsuit against Ailes. Fox was not named in the case.
Quickly, Ailes assembled a war room at his home in Bergen County, New Jersey. Chief among those advising Ailes was his wife, Beth. In the room or dialed in on all-points conference calls were friends, and, importantly, PR and legal staff from Fox News, who were technically not even involved in the case.
“We’re not going to let them win,” Ailes said of the Murdoch heirs.
In keeping with Ailes’ take-no-prisoners style, it was decided that the defense would be a blistering offense. And key to that would be a campaign of public pronouncements of support from Fox employees, to be led by those with the highest profile and best ratings. Quickly, the litany of A-listers coming out in support of their embattled boss would include Van Susteren, O’Reilly, Bartiromo, Jeanine Pirro and Neil Cavuto.
“It was an unbelievable campaign,” one insider told ABC News. “There was enormous pressure.”
Kelly wouldn’t do what Ailes wanted. (Kelly declined to comment to ABC News.)
She did, however, speak with the team of investigators retained by the Murdochs to probe what was happening at Fox. The law firm brought in to do the investigation told Fox staffers they wanted to know whether others had experienced harassment by Ailes. They started with those, like Kelly, who were headed to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.
During that session, Kelly told investigators about harassment from Ailes she had suffered years earlier. Ailes would soon find out about that interview and news accounts detailing her account would follow quickly.
But that’s not when Ailes first realized his career at the network he founded was over. That moment had already come –- with a burst of silence.
Ailes, through his lawyers, has denied harassing Carlson or Kelly.