(Reuters) – Former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson sued Fox News Channel architect Roger Ailes on Wednesday for sexual harassment, claiming her ex-boss wrongfully fired her after she rebuffed years of unwanted advances.
Ailes, the network’s chairman and chief executive officer, denied Carlson’s allegations in a statement late yesterday. The parent of Fox News, 21st Century Fox, said it had begun an internal review of the matter.
Carlson, 50, claimed in a lawsuit that Ailes, a former Republican political consultant who built the Fox News television network into the most-watched U.S. cable news channel, took her off the morning show “Fox & Friends” in 2013 and cut her pay because she refused to have a sexual relationship with him.
Lawsuits alleging sexual harassment typically name the employer as a defendant, but Carlson’s lawyer, Nancy Erika Smith, said in an interview that she had no reason to believe that Fox condoned or authorized the behavior of Ailes.
Ailes was a media consultant for several U.S. Republican party presidents, including George H.W. Bush. He has also been a confidant of 21st Century Fox Executive Co-Chairman Rupert Murdoch, who named Ailes founding chief executive of Fox News Channel in 1996. Fox News remains a subsidiary of 21st Century Fox.
Ailes called Carlson’s allegations “false.”
“This is a retaliatory suit for the network’s decision not to renew her contract, which was due to the fact that her disappointingly low ratings were dragging down the afternoon lineup,” Ailes’ statement said.
“This defamatory lawsuit is not only offensive, it is wholly without merit and will be defended vigorously,” Ailes said.
Ailes also said Fox News provided Carlson “with more on-air opportunities over her 11 year tenure than any other employer in the industry, for which she thanked me in her recent book.”