Back in August we reported on the problematic firing of Brian Lewis, head of PR for Fox News and longtime confidante of network chief Roger Ailes. While the storied flack initially had only good things to say about his former employer to sister site TVNewser, the picture quickly got ugly. Lewis hired former Donald Trump attorney Judd Burstein, who earned his pay by uttering this classic line:
“Roger Ailes and Newscorp have a lot more to fear from Brian Lewis telling the truth about them than Brian Lewis has to fear from Roger Ailes and his toadies telling lies about Brian Lewis.”
We LOL’ed at the use of the man’s name three times in the same sentence.
General consensus held that Ailes suspected Lewis of leaking information to media sources, and today someone actually did leak some inflammatory news to Gawker: seems that Fox paid its former rep a total of $8 million in “hush money” to avoid a costly lawsuit.
Last week someone inside the company told Bill Carter of The New York Times that a deal had been reached, though Carter noted that “some have gone to great lengths to avoid providing either a confirmation or denial”. What a strange communications strategy.
According to J.K. Trotter‘s post today, lengthy negotiations between Lewis and Fox reps resulted in the enormous total after Burstein warned the Ailes team that a full trial would cost considerably more.
The biggest scoop in the Gawker reveal is that Lewis’ firing had absolutely nothing to do with accusations of “financial improprieties”, which were apparently as fake as that New Jersey waitress’s story about a customer who refused to tip her because she was a lesbian. It was all about Lewis’ relationship with New York magazine’s Gabe Sherman and his upcoming book about the network. Seems the Fox PR team couldn’t agree on how to discredit Sherman and that Lewis’ insistence that the team engage rather than ignore ultimately led to his firing.
If this is true, that was an expensive strategy session.