Facing multiple allegations of sexually harassing female employees along with lawsuits from two of his accusers, to say nothing of advising Donald Trump on presidential debate prep, ousted Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes apparently still has time to plot the downfall of perceived foes.
No. 1 on the 76-year-old Ailes’s enemies list appears to be New York Magazine national affairs editor Gabriel Sherman, who has spearheaded the reporting on the former cable news executive’s recent scandal that led to his abrupt resignation last month, and is the author of a much buzzed-about 2014 biography of Ailes, The Loudest Voice in the Room.
The 37-year-old Sherman, who has broken several Ailes stories in recent weeks—notably the damaging scoop that Fox News star Megyn Kelly, an Ailes protégé, had told an internal review of fired Fox anchor Gretchen Carlson’s harassment lawsuit allegations that she, too, had been an Ailes victim—is preparing a major exposé on Ailes and his behavior toward women, expected to be published in the magazine’s next issue.
In what seemed timed as a preemptive strike, two of Ailes’s attorneys—Susan Estrich, a law professor and a partner in the blue-chip Los Angeles law firm Quinn, Emanuel, and Mark Mukasey, a top litigator in the well-connected New York firm Greenberg, Traurig—contacted The Daily Beast in the past day to attack the journalist in slashing, nasty, and deeply personal terms.
“Gabe Sherman is a virus, and is too small to exist on his own, and has obviously attached himself to the Ailes family to try to suck the life out of them,” Mukasey, the son of former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, said in an interview Tuesday after sending an email to The Daily Beast inviting a reporter to call for his comments.
“Roger is fine and doing well, and is not going to allow a virus like that to poison the atmosphere.”
Estrich—a high-profile feminist and former Democratic operative whose representation of Ailes, a legendary Republican media strategist before creating the conservative-leaning Fox News, has raised eyebrows—offered her own condemnation of Sherman.
“This is Gabe Sherman’s last stand, and it falls flat,” Estrich said in an emailed statement, referring to Sherman’s reporting on last week’s complaint against Ailes and four other Fox News executives by suspended Fox News personality Andrea Tantaros.
“Gabe Sherman has made clear that nothing will stand in the way of his vendetta against Roger Ailes, and he will use any woman he can find—no matter how clearly and deeply troubled she is—to try to concoct allegations against Mr. Ailes.”
Citing Tantaros and former Fox News guest booker Laurie Luhn, who Sherman reported received $3.15 million in company funds to buy her silence after Ailes sexually abused her for two decades, Estrich added: “But Gabe is running out of women he can use and abuse. Ultimately, it will be clear that the real enemy of women is Gabe Sherman.”
In his only response to the new attacks, Sherman told The Daily Beast: “I don’t take it personally. I’m going to keep my head down and continue to report.”
Ailes, through his attorneys, has denied all of the allegations.
Yet two years ago, when Sherman’s Ailes biography was published by Random House and spent two weeks on The New York Times nonfiction bestseller list, the author described a vicious campaign of demonization and psychological intimidation waged against him as he toiled on the book—a campaign orchestrated, he asserted, by Ailes and his surrogates.
“This was a completely new experience—I never felt that a subject was literally out to cause me professional harm and in certain cases wish me ill,” Sherman said at an investigative reporting forum hosted by the University of California at Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism.
Calling Ailes “a genius” who plays “brass-knuckled politics, where everything is fair game,” Sherman added: “The one thing everybody knows about Fox News is they construct a narrative. My own life was going to become a narrative pushed by conservatives and surrogates…that I was a left-wing activist paid by George Soros out to destroy the conservative movement.”
Describing a series of hit pieces on the right-wing populist Breitbart News site, along with Google advertisements placed against his name calling him a lefty and worse, Sherman said: “The campaign was set up to…smear me and incite hate.”
In one instance, Sherman told his audience, he received a death threat at home.
“I don’t even have a doorman. I live in a modest apartment in New York,” Sherman said about himself and his wife. “I became the subject of Roger Ailes’s politics that he has deployed for 40 years in campaigns of demonization and creating a false narrative.”
Indeed, CNN media reporter Brian Stelter recently revealed that CNN had received a 400-page opposition research file on Sherman that been circulated at Fox News around the time he was working on his book. “A stunning display of Ailes’ campaign-like strategies,” Stelter called it.
Asked if Ailes had, as Sherman has contended, ever sent a “black ops” team to monitored the journalist’s activities, Mukasey responded: “I think Gabe Sherman has delusions of grandeur or self-importance if he thinks that.”
Mukasey, for his part, told The Daily Beast he began helping Ailes in mid-July, as Gretchen Carlson’s lawsuit was making headlines, “as a personal friend and counselor to the family.”
He said he met Ailes as a staffer in Rudy Giuliani’s unsuccessful 1989 mayoral campaign against David Dinkins, in which Ailes was a media adviser, and that Ailes is also a good friend of Mukasey’s father, Michael, a former federal judge who served as President George W. Bush’s third attorney general.
Concerning Sherman’s work on the upcoming New York article, Mukasey said: “Why wouldn’t he? He seems to do nothing else. He seems to have a sort of twisted obsession with Roger, and I think when his book failed miserably he saw an opening…to suck Ailes’s blood.” (While noting the book’s two weeks on the Times bestseller list, starting at No. 9, a Random House spokesperson declined to discuss its sales.)
“Roger will live to fight another day, and Gabe Sherman will be a mediocre journalist for the rest of his life,” Mukasey went on.
Asked why he thought it helped Ailes’s case to trash a prominent journalist in such insulting, over-the-top language, Mukasey answered: “I think that the world should know that what Gabe Sherman dumped into his blog or New York magazine—nobody reads New York magazine—is a result or a product of a sick personal vendetta. I don’t think we can say that too many times.”
For the record, a New York magazine spokesperson said the publication claims a paid circulation of around 400,000 readers and, in July, scored 27 million unique visitors to its web site.