It’s been a bad 2017 over at Fox News. While the network continues to do well in the ratings and with advertisers in most time slots, big name personalities and leaders have fallen from grace, and it looks like the hits will keep coming… at least for the foreseeable future.
Still reeling from the loss of Roger Ailes after sexual harassment allegations, Fox was rocked by the loss of its most popular pundit, Bill O’Reilly, due to similar allegations and multi-million-dollar payouts. And it doesn’t look like things are going to get any easier over at Fox. The United States Justice Department continues to investigate the network, digging deeper into what some are calling systemic problems.
Adding to the negative headlines, CNN is now reporting that financial crimes experts from the US Postal Investigation Service are coming after Fox as well, looking into potential allegations of mail fraud or wire fraud. At least, that’s the inference many are making from the addition of USPIS investigators joining the probe.
Fox has said it is cooperating fully with the Justice Department’s investigation but is not commenting on this latest development. Rumors are already circulating, though, and that just adds to the mountain of bad PR piling on Fox News so far this year.
And more bad news might be forthcoming. Ailes built a strong power base during his time at Fox, and, since his ouster, many of “his people” have left the network. This exodus has many wondering what might come out about the network, and if someone is already talking…which may have led to the expanded investigation.
Fox leadership sure isn’t going to tip their hand, and that’s likely the right tactic, at least at this point. Nothing concrete has been reported yet, so commenting on rumors just offers credence to said rumors. Conversely, that silence also allows people to speculate – sometimes wildly – about what “might” be under investigation. Reports are already coming out that the investigation, which was thought to be focused only on Ailes’ misconduct, now includes investigators of other Fox employees who worked with or for Ailes.
The substance of those investigations is not known at this point either, and that just fuels more “wondering.” You can bet Fox’s competition and detractors are having a field day reporting on all the rumors coming out of the investigation.
There are several leadership lessons tied to this situation. Chief among them is the truism that people close to Ailes should have seen coming: when someone as powerful as Roger Ailes goes down, he’s not going down alone.