Fox News paid former executive $8 mln for silence
Back in July, Lewis was fired after having a falling out with Fox News’ chairman Roger Ailes. Lewis was responsible for heading the network’s communications and public relations team, and was widely considered to be Ailes’ right-hand man.
Last week, the New York Times reported Fox had reached a settlement agreement with Lewis, but had difficulty confirming the arrangement with anyone on the record.On Monday, Gawker reported that a Fox News executive “with knowledge of the negotiations” told the publication that Lewis agreed to stay silent for $8 million.
When Lewis was let go, Fox News issued a statement accusing him of “issues relating to financial irregularities, as well as for multiple, material and significant breaches of his employment contract.”
In response, Lewis’ lawyer, Judd Burstein, issued a statement of his own, disputing the allegations as lies and declaring that Fox had a lot to lose if Lewis spoke up about his 17-year partnership with Ailes.
“First, Brian Lewis no longer has any confidentiality obligation to Newscorp or Roger Ailes because of the false and malicious statements made by Fox to date,” said Burstein to Gawker in August. “Second, Roger Ailes and Newscorp have a lot more to fear from Brian Lewis telling the truth about them than Brian Lewis has to fear from Roger Ailes and his toadies telling lies about Brian Lewis.”
Extensive negotiations followed in the wake of these statements, but while $8 million seems like a significant price to pay to keep someone quiet, the unnamed Fox executive said that if Lewis really had damaging information, he would’ve been paid even more. The source also revealed what could be the real reason for Lewis’ termination.
“That whole financial impropriety thing was complete bullshit,” the executive told Gawker. “Everything was about Gabe Sherman.”
In January 2014, Sherman, who writes for New York Magazine, is scheduled to release an unauthorized Roger Ailes biography. Ailes allegedly accused Lewis of being Sherman’s source for some of the revelations in the upcoming book.
Fox's PR department under Lewis' leadership became infamous for ruthless tactics used against the network's critics. Tales of Fox’s aggressive PR operations have already leaked out in another book, dubbed “Murdoch’s World,” by NPR reporter David Folkenflik. The book relayed an incident in which the department set up a new email account and planted false information to Crain’s New York Business reporter Mathew Flamm, who cited the source in a story on Fox’s reaction to coming up short against CNN in ratings.
When the story went live, Fox News blasted Flamm and all his reporting in general. Flamm tried to contact his source to no avail, and found out later that the email account he had corresponded with had been shut down. A former Fox News staff member later told Folkenflik the PR department set up the entire incident.
As for this current settlement, neither Fox News nor Lewis have commented on the arrangement. Burstein also directed all queries to Fox News legal affairs head Dianne Brandi, who did not return any requests for comment from Gawker or the New York Times.