Last Friday, New York Magazine dropped a damning exposé that added even more alleged details to the scandal swirling around Roger Ailes. The former Fox News CEO and chairman was ousted after many sexual harassment claims, which began when former host Gretchen Carlson filed suit. The aforementioned exposé, which was penned by Ailes’ least favorite journalist, Gabriel Sherman — who also wrote an unflattering book on Ailes — discussed how Carlson “secretly recorded” her meeting with Ailes. The article also described a long pattern of his alleged predatory behavior.
In response to the piece, Ailes has lawyered up while hinting at filing suit against NY Mag. And he’s selected the same attorney, Charles Harder, who Hulk Hogan and Peter Thiel used to take down Gawker Media. This resulted in a $140 million ruling, which set off a chain of events that ended in the company’s flagship site being shuttered. As an in-demand libel lawyer, Harder also recently helped Melania Trump sue the Daily Mail for claiming she was once an “escort.” The Mail quickly issued a retraction and statement of regret.
Ailes may want the same result after Sherman’s latest story. According to Financial Times, Harder hasn’t explicitly stated whether a lawsuit will happen, but he fired off some correspondence towards NY Mag to “take issue” with Sherman’s articles about Ailes:
Mr. Harder has written to New York magazine to take issue with articles about the former Fox News chief by Gabriel Sherman, who has chronicled Mr. Ailes’ downfall following sexual harassment allegations made by female Fox employees … It is unclear if Mr. Ailes will ultimately sue Mr. Sherman or New York magazine. Mr. Ailes could not be reached for comment and Mr Harder did not return emails seeking comment.
Mr. Sherman declined to comment but a spokeswoman for New York magazine confirmed the publication had been contacted by Mr. Harder, adding that Mr. Sherman’s stories had been “very carefully reported.”
From these excerpts, it appears that the publication is standing behind Sherman’s work, but it seems that Ailes agrees with his chief lawyer, Susan Estrich, and her claims of a “vendetta.” Ailes is also sending a clear message by hiring Harder — who holds a few recent high-profile victories and also acts as counsel for several A-list actors — especially in light of the recent victory against Gawker.
The New York Times notes that Harder’s communication arrived in email form, and the paper quotes NY Mag spokeswoman Lauren Starke, who reveals that they were “asked to preserve documents related to Mr. Ailes in preparation for a possible defamation claim.” So, there’s certainly the suggestion of a defamation suit in the works, but the burden of proof — especially for a public figure like Ailes — to score a legal victory would be a large one to accomplish.