Did Donald Trump Blackmail Roger Ailes?

Gretchen Carlson is suing Fox News Director Roger Ailes for quid pro quo sexual harassment.  She claims that he fired her because she refused to sleep with him.    Unfortunately for Ailes, New York Magazine columnist Gabriel Sherman wrote that at least 6 more women have stepped forward  accusing him of sexual harassment or attempted rape.  One of those women claimed she was only 16 when Ailes tried to force her to perform oral sex on him.  Cenk Uyger of the Young Turks discussed this in detail.





This wasn't the first juicy story that Sherman broke about Roger Ailes.  Sherman broke another one in April and this one involved Donald Trump


It was also thanks to some information he had gathered that Trump was able to do something that no other Republican has done before: take on Fox News. An odd bit of coincidence had given him a card to play against Fox founder Roger Ailes. In 2014, I published a biography of Ailes, which upset the famously paranoid executive. Several months before it landed in stores, Ailes fired his longtime PR adviser Brian Lewis, accusing him of being a source. During Lewis’s severance negotiations, Lewis hired Judd Burstein, a powerhouse litigator, and claimed he had “bombs” that would destroy Ailes and Fox News. That’s when Trump got involved.

“When Roger was having problems, he didn’t call 97 people, he called me,” Trump said. Burstein, it turned out, had worked for Trump briefly in the ’90s, and Ailes asked Trump to mediate. Trump ran the negotiations out of his office at Trump Tower. “Roger had lawyers, very expensive lawyers, and they couldn’t do anything. I solved the problem.” Fox paid Lewis millions to go away quietly, and Trump, I’m told, learned everything Lewis had planned to leak. If Ailes ever truly went to war against Trump, Trump would have the arsenal to launch a retaliatory strike.


Amanda Marcotte at Salon.com elaborated on Sherman's speculation that Trump MIGHT have used whatever dirt he had on Roger Ailes to ensure that he received LOTS of free publicity with little tough questioning from Fox News. This is an excerpt from her report. I encourage you to read the whole thing.


If this is true, it would explain a lot about the Fox News/Trump relationship. On one hand, it does seem a number of higher-ups at Fox News grasp what kind of threat Trump presents to the Republican Party, and how his loud mouth and open bigotry threaten to dismantle literally decades of work put into pretending that conservatism is a principled position instead of an incoherent reactionary hissy fit cobbled together with an interest in concentrating wealth into the hands of a small number of people. It’s in the party’s — and therefore Fox’s — interest to destroy the Trump candidacy.

On the other hand, no one has done as much as Fox News in promoting Trump. One of the major reasons Trump doesn’t need to run many ads or do many events besides thrown-together rallies in airport hangers is that he gets a mind-boggling amount of cable news coverage and of the sort that many other candidates don’t get. For instance, Trump is allowed to do phone call-in interviews while every other candidate is forced to come into the studio, which dramatically increases the amount of airtime he gets while simultaneously making it harder for the interviewers to ask him difficult questions.

Fox News is the network mainly responsible for how bad things have gotten. It’s hard to imagine CNN or ABC letting Trump call in on their news shows as much as he does if Fox News hadn’t long before extended phone privileges to Trump, putting the rest of the networks and shows in a position where they feel they have to do it too in order to be competitive.


It is important to remember that we don't know what, if anything, Trump had to blackmail Ailes with. And the allegations against Roger Ailes of sexual harrasment are just that--allegations. Nothing has been proven in court.  And several prominent female anchors/reporters have spoken up in Ailes' favor including Kimberly Guilfoyle, Harris Faulkner, Martha MacCallum and Ainsley Earhardt.

But IF these allegations are true then I suspect that this is what Trump had up his sleeve to blackmail Ailes with.  Unless Sherman got his story wrong.  Or unless Ailes has other skeletons rattling around in his closet. 

If I was the lawyer for any of these women I would subpoena Brian Lewis and Donald Trump to see whether they knew anything about harassment involving Roger Ailes and the plaintiffs. I would also question others who might be in a position to know whether Trump was blackmailing Ailes. This line of questioning could go nowhere, or it could provide additional evidence against Ailes while blowing up in Trump's face.



Update 7/14/16: Susan, the woman who Ailes allegedly molested  when she was 16, did not just come out of the woodwork after hearing about Gretchen Carlson suing Ailes. She tried to get her story published by the LA Weekly in 1992 but they turned her down because she did not have enough corroborating evidence.  She also tried to get her story published in a couple of other newspapers but they turned her down because they feared Ailes would sue them.

Update 7/18/16: Donald Trump defended Rober Ailes from allegations of sexual harassment based on what he had read.  Why would Trump defend Ailes? This is pure speculation, but maybe Trump wants to keep Ailes at Fox because Ailes has ensured he will get favorable treatment there.  If Ailes is fired, Trump might not be treated with such kid gloves.

Trump has also found himself the target of a lawsuit by a woman who claimed he raped her when she was a minor.  An (alleged) witness is reported to have filled out an affidavit alleging that she had seen the rape.  Again, this is speculation, but maybe Trump is hyst sympathetic with other men who have been accused of rape.

It was reported today that Roger Ailes will soon be fired from Fox news.  It seems Fox's CEO and co-chairmen, Rupert Murdoch and his sons, either don't have a high degree of confidence in Ailes' innocence and/or they think continuing his employment excessively increases their liability risk.