Conflicting reports: Is Ailes out at Fox?

The fate of Fox News CEO Roger Ailes is up in the air.

There are conflicting reports about whether Ailes has been ousted or is about to be ousted.

A person close to Ailes denied a claim on The Drudge Report, since changed, that Ailes was officially leaving the channel. However, an executive with direct knowledge of the situation said that talks that will likely lead to Ailes’ departure are ongoing.

A statement put out by 21st Century Fox on Twitter read, “Roger is at work. The review is ongoing. The only agreement that is in place is his existing employment agreement.”

Separately, Megyn Kelly is not commenting on a report that she has told investigators that Ailes sexually harassed her a decade ago.

Kelly did not respond to repeated calls and messages on Tuesday afternoon. Nor did her representatives.

Staffers at Fox News are on pins and needles awaiting news about Ailes, who is the subject of an internal review after ex-anchor Gretchen Carlson accused him of sexual harassment in a lawsuit earlier this month.

For the time being, Ailes remains at work running Fox News, the channel he created in 1996 and has masterminded ever since.

But on Monday, New York magazine’s Gabe Sherman reported that the three Murdochs in charge of the channel’s parent company 21st Century Fox — father Rupert and his sons Lachlan and James — “have settled on removing” Ailes.

A person familiar with the deliberations confirmed to CNNMoney that Ailes’ removal is an option that the Murdochs are currently considering.

On Tuesday, Sherman followed up with a report that lawyers for 21st Century Fox have given Ailes “a deadline of August 1 to resign or face being fired for cause.”

The most explosive part of Sherman’s report involved Kelly, Fox’s 9 p.m. host.

Citing anonymous sources, he said Kelly “has described her harassment by Ailes in detail” to lawyers for the law firm retained by the Murdochs to review the allegations.

The New York-based firm — Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison — has not commented on the review.

A spokesman for 21st Century Fox declined to comment on Tuesday.

Earlier on Monday, the company said, “This matter is not yet resolved and the review is not concluded.”

Missing from that statement was any public show of support for Ailes.

The non-denials on Monday and Tuesday seemed to lend more credence to Sherman’s reports.

On Tuesday afternoon a banner headline on the widely-read conservative news site The Drudge Report read, “MEGYN TWISTS THE KNIFE: AILES HARASSED ME!”

The extraordinary developments — and the ensuing panic within the network — are happening while Kelly and many of Fox’s other journalists are in Cleveland for the Republican National Convention.

While speculation swirled about what Kelly may have told investigators, she was said to be busy preparing for Tuesday’s prime time convention coverage.

Several sources said the law firm’s attorneys are undertaking a thorough review of the harassment allegations, interviewing past and present Fox staffers.

In recent days, several former Fox staffers told CNNMoney that they have their own stories to tell about Ailes, but are reluctant to do so publicly, citing restrictive legal language in their separation agreements.

Sherman reported on Tuesday that 21st Century Fox is “waiving” those non-disparagement clauses, thereby allowing the women to speak.

Though a number of current and former Fox staffers and spoken out on Ailes’ behalf over the past two weeks, most are now staying silent about the deepening controversy.

Variety’s Cynthia Littleton was able to ask 7 p.m. host Greta Van Susteren about Ailes’ status during Monday’s convention coverage, and the host said she “doesn’t know anything.”

Another host, Geraldo Rivera, weighed in on Tuesday, tweeting an apparent response to Sherman’s reports.

“Don’t believe the crap about” Ailes, Rivera wrote. “Only ones talking dirt are those who hate #FoxNews & want to hurt network that’s kicking their ass.”

Fox is the highest-rated cable news channel in the United States and has been for over a decade. Ailes is widely credited with the accomplishment.

A Republican power broker and TV legend, Ailes is not to be underestimated.

But the Murdoch sons who are gradually taking control of 21st Century Fox do not have the same affinity for Ailes that their father Rupert does.

If Ailes is indeed on the way out, it’s “arguably a bigger story for conservatives than anything happening in Cleveland this week — or maybe USA in Nov,” CNN media analyst Bill Carter tweeted. 

One of his followers replied and compared it to “Apple without Steve Jobs.”

Ailes has carefully groomed Kelly for several years, helping her to become one of the biggest stars in television news.

Her contract is coming up for renewal next year, and there is widespread speculation that she may leave Fox for a rival network.

Kelly has acknowledged that she may leave. But as recently as April, she praised Ailes in an interview.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’ve had a great 12 years here, and I really like working for Roger Ailes,” she said.

Tom Kludt and Dylan Byers contributed reporting.

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