Former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes Hired Private Investigator to Discredit Sexual Harassment Claimants: Reports

Roger Ailes
Roger Ailes, chairman and CEO of Fox News answers questions during a panel discussion in Pasadena, California on July 24, 2006. Ailes resigned from the company last summer after multiple women accused him of sexual harassment. Fred Prouser/Reuters

Federal prosecutors investigating Fox News are looking into new information about the network's former CEO Roger Ailes. The disgraced chief, who resigned from Fox News last summer after multiple women accused him of sexual harassment, is believed to have used a private investigator to look into people he considered a threat to him or the network.

Ailes' employment of the investigator, a former New York City police detective and Fox News contributor named Bo Dietl, was first revealed by the Wall Street Journal Thursday.

In its report, the Journal said that officials from the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan, as well as employees of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, were investigating Fox News's use of sexual harassment payouts, as well as allegations of intimidation at the company.

Fox News has authorized settlements totalling tens of millions of dollars to women who have accused Ailes, and former network star Bill O'Reilly of harassment. According to the Wall Street Journal , the officials from the U.S. attorney's office looking into Fox News are from the securities department—meaning they are scrutinizing the network's financial disclosures.

Their main focus, the Journal said, is on the sexual harassment payments and who authorized them. In February, the Hollywood Reporter revealed that prosecutors were investigating Fox over claims it hadn't told shareholders about its sexual harassment settlements. One of the biggest payouts, at $20 million, went to Gretchen Carlson, a former Fox News anchor who filed a suit against Ailes, claiming he sexually harassed her.

In an interview with the Journal, Dietl said Carlson was one of the women Ailes asked him to investigate. The former Fox News CEO also allegedly told Dietl to look into the past of Andrea Mackris, a former producer at the network who received a $9 million settlement from O'Reilly after suing him for harassment. Dietl, whose job was to try to discredit both women, said he once had someone eavesdrop on Mackris's private conversations.

Ailes' conduct has cost the company dearly—both financially and reputationally. In November, Fox News' parent company, 21st Century Fox revealed that it had spent $35 million in the quarter ending in September in legal settlements.

Since revelations about O'Reilly came to light, Fox News has faced more lawsuits and growing accusations that it has fostered an environment hostile toward women. In response, the Murdoch family who own Fox News have said they are committed to "maintaining a work environment based on trust and respect."