The fallout from the Roger Ailes sexual harassment investigation continues at Fox. Federal prosecutors created headlines last week when they offered a former network executive immunity if he agrees to testify.
Mark Kranz was Fox’s CFO until he retired last August, and now he might be subject to questioning by federal investigators. The biggest question in this line center on the idea that Fox executives may have misled investigators while hiding payments to certain Fox employees who had reported being sexually harassed by Ailes.
So, why is Kranz being offered the deal? Well, as CFO, he had direct access to the company’s books, and he has the knowledge to decode and describe the contents of their financial statements down to the specifics. If there were secret payments that Fox officials lied about or hid from investigators, Kranz could uncover them … if he chooses to.
The offer of immunity is an interesting one. It could mean that investigators already have evidence they just need a qualified witness to confirm … or it could mean they’re stuck, and they need someone to get them past a hurdle. At this point, either scenario is equally possible, though public opinion likely won’t make this distinction.
The moment the average consumer reads: “offered immunity…” they immediately translate that as “guilty, but he knows something of value.” This is a line of thinking that’s been prevalent in recent days at the highest level of American politics. But what will Fox viewers make of this latest development? Most are willing to admit they think Ailes is guilty of at least some of what he’s been accused of, but what will they think if it’s proven that the network lied to protect its people from further prosecution … essentially, they knew Ailes was guilty but kept him on despite this fact.
That’s the question Fox competitors are hoping to push into the narrative, given this opportunity. Even if nothing comes of this offer of immunity, the narrative could still have legs, if it’s handled properly. What happens next should be an interesting exercise in the strength of competing narratives in a media environment.
And it will be made even more compelling in that it will be several media outlets proffering various narratives attacking each other. But it will have to be done subtly, with very carefully crafted statements and news reports. Because it’s “the news” reporting on “the news” they will have to be circumspect every step of the way or viewers may simply dismiss statements as nothing more than naked bias.