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Trump Speaks Out and Defends Former Fox News CEO Ailes

ByABC News
July 25, 2016, 8:07 AM

— -- Donald Trump is defending his longtime friend Roger Ailes in the wake of sexual harassment allegations and growing controversy surrounding the top-rated cable news channel.

Appearing on Showtime's "The Circus," the Republican presidential nominee offered up praise for the former chairman and chief executive of Fox News, saying, "I think it's so sad. He's such a great guy."

Trump also touted the legacy that Ailes leaves behind at Fox News, a network Ailes helped build from the ground up but was forced to walk away from amid accusations of sexual harassment that have become public in recent weeks.

"What he's done on television, is in the history of television, he's gotta be placed in the top three, or four, or five, and that includes the founding of the major networks," Trump said. "So it's too bad. I'm sure it was friendly. I know Rupert [Murdoch]. He's a great guy," he continued.

Former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Ailes on July 6. Ailes has denied all of Carlson’s allegations, saying in a statement that "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."

In an appearance on "Meet the Press" on Sunday, Trump also appeared to question the motives behind some of the allegations of harassment. "Some of the women that are complaining, I know how much he's helped all of a sudden, they are saying these horrible things about him, it's very sad because he's a very good person," he said.

Paul Manafort, Trump's campaign chair, echoed that support in an interview on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," adding to speculation that the 76-year-old -- widely known as a "Republican kingmaker" -- could potentially even join the Trump campaign.

Asked if there was any truth to that rumor, Manafort told Stephanopoulos, "I have no idea where that came from, there’s nothing I can say about that, but Roger Ailes certainly is a voice who understands the American people."

Trump's show of support for the embattled former CEO comes as new allegations against the culture at Fox News continue to surface.

In an interview with The New York Times, former Fox News correspondent Rudi Bakhtiar said that she was fired from the network after filing an internal sexual harassment complaint that accused former Fox News Washington DC bureau chief Brian Wilson of sexual advances. Wilson, who left Fox News in 2010, denies the claims. Fox News executives say she was let go due to her performance.

Nearly a dozen women told The Times they experienced some form of harassment at Fox News; two women said they were allegedly harassed by Ailes while others claim they were harassed by other supervisors. All said speaking out could have been detrimental to their careers.

Ailes' troubles began when attorneys working for Carlson went public with her charges of harassment.

Sources tell ABC News that while several Fox News personalities have spoken out in support of Ailes, it was only after anchor Megyn Kelly refused to support Ailes that it became evident that Ailes may be forced out of the company.

Ailes formally stepped down July 21.

In a separate statement to ABC News, 21st Century Fox, Fox News' parent company, said, "there's absolutely no room anywhere at our company for behavior that disrespects women or contributes to an uncomfortable work environment."

ABC News’ Josh Margolin contributed to this report.

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