“I think they are unfounded, just based on what I’ve read,” Trump told The Washington Examiner of the claims made against the 76-year-old media executive and Republican power player. “Totally unfounded, based on what I read.”
Former “Fox & Friends” co-host Gretchen Carlson filed a lawsuit against Ailes last week, claiming that she was fired in retaliation for rebuffing his sexual advances and pushing back against a sexist newsroom culture.
The network has described the suit as “wholly without merit,” and several Fox News stars have publicly defended their boss. Twenty-first Century Fox, the Rupert Murdoch-led parent company of Fox News, is conducting an internal review into Carlson’s allegations against Ailes and former co-host Steve Doocy, who she described as engaging in a pattern of harassment over the years.
Since Carlson filed her suit, six additional women ― some on the record, others anonymously ― have told New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman that Ailes harassed them while he held TV executive and political consultant positions prior to the 1996 launch of Fox News. Sherman had previously reported similar accusations against Ailes in his 2014 biography of the influential media executive.
Ailes, a former political operative who advised three Republican presidents, has long been seen as a party kingmaker. Yet Trump challenged Ailes’ power by snubbing a Fox News debate in January, part of the continuing fallout from the candidate’s misogynist swipe at network star Megyn Kelly. Trump suggested Kelly was menstruating when she challenged him during the first Republican debate to address his history of disparaging comments about women.
Trump’s defense of Ailes comes as the presumptive Republican nominee, once a mainstay across TV networks, has increasingly turned to Fox News and sympathetic hosts like Sean Hannity as the general election kicks into high gear.