Fox Clarifies Murdoch's `Nonsense' Sexual Harassment Comments

  • Billionaire was referring to business effects: spokeswoman
  • Ailes, O’Reilly were ousted following harassment allegations

Rupert Murdoch

 Photographer: Drew Angerer/Bloomberg

21st Century Fox Inc. sought to clarify comments by Rupert Murdoch after the co-chairman’s earlier remarks about sexual harassment allegations at Fox News drew ire online.

“It’s all nonsense,” Murdoch said Thursday in response to a question from Sky News about whether the harassment allegations had hurt business. “There was a problem with our chief executive sort of over the years, but isolated incidents. As soon as we investigated he was out of the place in hours -- well, three or four days -- and there’s been nothing else since then.”

Fox on Saturday said Murdoch used “nonsense” in reference to the idea that business was affected, not to describe sexual harassment or the claims at the company.

“Rupert never characterized the sexual harassment matters at Fox News as ‘nonsense,’” a spokeswoman said in an emailed statement. “Rather, he responded negatively to the suggestion that sexual harassment issues were an obstacle to the company’s bid for the rest of Sky.”

Fox is seeking to absorb Sky, a British pay-TV company in which New York-based Fox has a 39 percent stake. U.K. regulators are reviewing the bid.

Roger Ailes was ousted from Fox in 2016 after women including former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson accused him of sexual harassment. Murdoch didn’t mention former star Bill O’Reilly, who was forced out this year amid sexual harassment allegations.

“That was largely political, because we’re conservative,” Murdoch said after his comments about Ailes’s ouster. “Now of course all the liberals are going down the drain,” the billionaire added, citing allegations against stars at NBC and CBS. “There are really bad cases that people should be moved aside, and there are other things which probably amount to a bit of flirting, you know?”

Fox News isn’t among the 21st Century Fox assets that Walt Disney Co. is buying in its $52.4 billion movie studio and cable deal announced Thursday.

“Under Rupert’s leadership and with his total support, the company exited Roger Ailes, compensated numerous women who were mistreated, trained virtually all of its employees, exited its biggest star and hired a new head of HR,” the spokeswoman said. “By his actions, Rupert has made it abundantly clear that he understands that there were real problems at Fox News.”

— With assistance by Anousha Sakoui

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