Last month Brian Lewis was quietly escorted from the Fox News offices by security personnel. It is only now becoming known that this long-time employee was terminated under suspicious circumstances. The statement from Fox News said that Lewis, Fox’s Executive VP of Communications, was…
“…terminated for cause, specifically for issues relating to financial irregularities, as well as for multiple, material and significant breaches of his employment contract.”
No further statement from Fox was issued, and insiders are being characteristically silent as to the nature of the “financial irregularities.” However, there are good reasons to suspect that there is more to this than meets the eye.
Lewis has long been identified as one of the closest associates of Fox CEO Roger Ailes. He was brought along to Fox with Ailes from their previous positions at CNBC. Having been with Fox since its inception, Lewis rose to a position of trust wherein his responsibilities covered everything from Fox News, to Fox Business, to the Fox television stations, and more. In addition, he was listed as a senior adviser to Ailes. His authority was broad and comprehensive. For Ailes to jettison him so abruptly he must have done something unforgivably terrible.
Adding to the curious nature of Lewis’ departure is the treatment he has received from official Fox spokespersons and even their on-air personnel. Lewis is now being portrayed as a nearly insignificant cog in the Fox family. They dispute the descriptions of him as an Ailes confidant. Apparently, at Fox you can be an executive VP from the network’s launch and still not be very important. Many Foxies piled on in the belittling of Lewis, including Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Karl Rove, and more.
This is the sort of coordinated smear campaign that Fox generally embarks upon when they regard themselves as under attack. Ironically, it was Lewis who spearheaded these campaigns prior to his falling out.
In one example, Fox went after Media Matters in advance of their publication of the book “The Fox Effect: How Roger Ailes Turned a Network into a Propaganda Machine” They devoted hours of airtime to slandering Media Matters and its founder, David Brock, whom they called a mentally unstable drug abuser. Fox also aired innumerable segments challenging Media Matters’ tax exempt status in an effort to financially harm the organization. Funny, isn’t it, that Fox tried to get the IRS to punish what they falsely claimed was a political entity, and now they are condemning the IRS for allegedly doing just that to Tea party groups.
Another example is the campaign Fox ran against author Gabriel Sherman, who is writing a book about Ailes. This effort began with Ailes soliciting his own biography that was written by his hand-picked, sycophantic fluffer, Zev Chafets, in an attempt to beat Sherman to market. Then the war was escalated with personal attacks on Sherman, calling him a “phony journalist,” a “stalker,” a “harasser,” and “a [George] Soros puppet.” It is this Sherman angle that raises questions about the termination of Lewis.
Speculation is already surfacing that Ailes suspected Lewis of providing information to Sherman for his book. Ailes, of course, is notoriously paranoid and believes that Al Qaeda and the gays are out to get him too. However, if Lewis is a source for Sherman’s book he would surely have an abundance of juicy tidbits to unveil. Sherman himself wrote of Lewis’ departure from Fox and his account is both informative and provocative.
The likelihood that Lewis was engaged in something other than financial improprieties is pretty high. It is hard to believe that an Ailes loyalist for nearly two decades would suddenly become a common embezzler. Much more plausible is the theory that Lewis was persuaded to consort with an author with the intention of putting honest accounts into the record. That alone would mark Lewis as a traitor in the eyes of Ailes, and justify his expulsion from the Fox family.
Moreover, the familiar pattern that Fox follows by staging all-out war against anyone who dares to challenge their omnipotence is evident in the way they are hammering Lewis. If this were actually a routine dismissal of an errant employee there would be no need for the merciless bashing that Lewis is enduring. However, if Lewis was consorting with the enemy, this is precisely how Fox would respond.
This is a textbook example of a Fox News preemptive attack of the sort they launched on Media Matters and, previously, Sherman. It is something they believe would serve them later on should they need to discredit Lewis if his contributions show up in Sherman’s book. Most of all, it is not how a company ordinarily handles a sensitive personnel matter. But it is characteristic of the scorched-earth strategy that Fox employs when cornered.
[Update] See Brian Lewis’ response here.