Federal Probe Into Fox News is Expanding and Intensifying

By A.J. Katz 

Federal prosecutors from multiple government agencies aren’t taking their proverbial foot off the gas pedal when it comes to the probe into the cable news network about its settlements of sexual harassment allegations. If anything, the probe appears to be intensifying and the scope is broadening.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the feds have spoken to women who have accused former Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes of sexual harassment, “including on-air contributor Julie Roginsky, and former talent booker Laurie Luhn.” Luhn, a former director of booking and special events, received a $3.15 million severance from Fox back in 2011. It was reported last summer that Ailes has sexually harassed Luhn for more than 20 years. “He’s a predator,” Luhn had told New York Magazine’s Gabe Sherman in 11 hours of interviews.

The WSJ’s Joe Flint and Michael Rothfeld also report that Brian Lewis, former Fox News PR chief and once a top aide to Mr. Ailes, was also subpoenaed and met with investigators earlier this spring.

U.S. investigators have focused on how settlement payments over sexual-harassment accusations were structured at Fox News and which executives helped engineer them, people familiar with the matter said. But in their questioning, prosecutors also have shown an interest in alleged intimidation tactics authorized by Mr. Ailes, including the hiring of a private investigator to dig up negative information on women who complained, according to one of the people familiar with the probe.

The story states that the government won’t necessarily move forward with a criminal prosecution. Why not? Apparently, in order to prove a securities-law violation related to the company’s financial disclosures, legal experts say that “prosecutors would likely have to meet a high bar by showing 21st Century Fox intentionally misled investors by omitting or misstating information that a reasonable investor would have considered important.”

The story also states that former Fox News contributor, private investigator and now New York mayoral candidate Bo Dietl is involved in the probe, and feds are looking to see if “he’s perceived to be a threat to either Mr. Ailes or the channel.”

Dietl previously admitted that he had been used by FNC to find dirt on Gretchen Carlson and Bill O’Reilly accuser Andrea Mackris, both of whom ended up receiving significant harassment settlements from the company. In a tweet this morning, Dietl denies being hired by Ailes.