In the past few days, staffers at Fox News have waged a covert war and hostile whisper campaign against one of their most prominent former colleagues.
For Fox News—with its seasoned and often ruthless public-relations shop—that would be par for the course, except this time the spat happens to be with an ex-host who is currently dating the president’s eldest son.
Late last week, CNN reported that longtime Fox News personality Kimberly Guilfoyle will leave the network to campaign with her boyfriend, Donald Trump Jr. (“Donberly,” as friends and associates of the couple have started nicknaming them), for Republican candidates ahead of the 2018 midterms.
Andrew Surabian, a former White House official and current adviser to Trump Jr., tweeted that Guilfoyle’s move was a “win for the entire GOP,” and wrote “Kim is one of the most influential voices in the [Make America Great Again] movement and knows how to light up a crowd.”
What could have ended there as a clean break was almost immediately inflamed by longstanding internal friction, ongoing exit negotiations, and Fox’s notorious penchant for occasionally undercutting and attempting to discredit its own talent and ex-employees.
Following her exit, four knowledgeable sources say, Guilfoyle’s enemies within Fox have tried to plant negative stories and start whisper campaigns against her, accusing her of workplace misconduct and allegedly abusive behavior toward Fox staff. Some sources still working at Fox have described some of the “oppo” that’s been shopped on Guilfoyle as frivolous, inflated to sound more nefarious than it was—potentially to act as a public pretext for her dismissal.
For instance, a source told The Daily Beast that one story involved Guilfoyle’s alleged “abuse” of the network’s makeup staff. The Daily Beast has learned that this alleged “abuse” entailed included asking makeup staffers to do her favors such as provide makeup for non-work-related activity.
“Not exactly the Lewinsky scandal,” another source familiar with the gossip told The Daily Beast.
According to multiple sources familiar with the ordeal, Guilfoyle and Fox News executives had weighed parting ways for many months now. More recently, Fox and Guilfoyle had discussed how to split amicably—at least publicly.
Instead, the network blindsided Guilfoyle by releasing to inquiring outlets late last week what clearly seemed a passive-aggressive single-line statement kicking her to the curb:
“Fox News has parted ways with Kimberly Guilfoyle.”
It was a tactic similar to what Fox News’ comms and press operation—headed by former Roger Ailes lieutenant Irena Briganti—reportedly did to other Fox stars, such as Bob Beckel, whose initially “amicable” split turned vicious when Fox released a follow-up statement bashing him for holding the network “hostage” to his personal, rehab-related issues.
In a statement to The Daily Beast, Briganti said, “Fox News in no way, shape, or form has said anything about Kimberly other than the statement issued by the network on Friday. To suggest anything otherwise is absolutely false, downright malicious, and defamatory.”
The Fox News headquarters in New York City has long had a reputation as a workplace where intrigue, backstabbing, and bitter internal feuds run high—an environment resembling that of President Donald Trump’s West Wing, which Fox News now aggressively fawns over.
Fox News and Fox Business talent—like many in the entertainment-news industry at large—have been known to leak against each other to the press. And the networks’ PR staff has, at times, fueled the back-biting.
Emails reviewed and verified by The Daily Beast show that Fox’s communications brass have planted negative stories about some of their own top stars, including hosts like Bill O’Reilly and Stuart Varney—the latter of whom is still a Fox employee.
And recently, Guilfoyle retained the aggressive D.C. law firm Clare Locke, which boasts about “killing stories” and has represented 60 Minutes Executive Producer Jeff Fager, and ex-NBC star Matt Lauer—and done work for Glenn Thrush and National Enquirer boss David Pecker in an attempt to hobble negative stories about them.
The firm has already fired off one letter to a journalist, Yashar Ali of HuffPost, who reported last week that Guilfoyle’s Fox departure was not voluntary. On Monday, Ali tweeted that “Kimberly Guilfoyle has retained the law firm of Clare Locke & sent a threatening legal notice to HuffPost and me. Saying that my story had false and defamatory claims and that if the story wasn’t retracted it would constitute evidence of ‘actual malice.’ (The story is accurate).”
In a text message to The Daily Beast, attorney Tom Clare, who founded Clare Locke with his wife, Libby, said, “I can confirm that KG is a client and that she retained our firm to correct misinformation in certain media reports about her departure. We have not been asked to communicate with Fox, nor have we done so.”
The Daily Beast was not approached by representatives of Clare Locke working on the Guilfoyle account. This report is based on interviews with long-standing sources with knowledge of Fox News. We then approached Clare Locke for comment.
According to sources familiar with the situation, Guilfoyle had long been considering her next career move after Fox News, and had been approached regarding opportunities in Republican politics and pro-Trump advocacy.
Per two sources, the Trump-boosting America First Action super PAC had been discussing hiring her in a senior role since January, long before her relationship with Fox hit the skids. Though no formal announcement has been made yet, it is considered a foregone conclusion by those close to her that she’ll join the America First family, which already features other Trumpworld luminaries such as GOP donor Tommy Hicks Jr. and former White House press secretary Sean Spicer.
Trump Jr. himself has been involved with the super PAC, and has publicly endorsed it. “This is the only group that I’m giving to,” the president’s son said late last year, according to Politico, after writing a check for America First.
Junior was recently spotted with his father at the White House for a Fourth of July celebration. With them was Guilfoyle, once again underscoring her closeness to the Trump clan.