After publishing powerhouse Judith Regan was fired by HarperCollins in 2006, she claimed a senior executive at its parent company, News Corp., had encouraged her to lie to federal investigators two years before. Affidavits filed in a separate lawsuit reveal the identity of the previously unnamed executive.
It was an incendiary accusation: After publishing powerhouse Judith Regan was fired by HarperCollins in 2006, she claimed a senior executive at its parent company, News Corp., had encouraged her to lie to federal investigators two years before.
The investigators had been vetting Bernard Kerik, the former New York City police commissioner who had been nominated to become Homeland Security secretary and who had had an affair with Regan.
The goal of the News Corp. executive, according to Regan, was to keep the affair quiet and protect the then-nascent presidential aspirations of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Kerik’s mentor and supporter.
Regan never revealed the identity of the executive, even as she brought a wrongful-termination suit against HarperCollins and News Corp.
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But affidavits filed in a separate lawsuit reveal the identity of the previously unnamed executive: Roger Ailes, chairman of Fox News.
What is more, the documents say Regan taped the telephone call from Ailes in which Ailes discusses her relationship with Kerik.
It is unclear whether the existence of the tape played a role in News Corp.’s decision to move quickly to settle Regan’s lawsuit, paying her $10.75 million in a confidential settlement reached two months after she filed it in 2007.
If it were to become public, the tape could be highly embarrassing to Ailes, a onetime adviser to Richard Nixon whom critics deride as a partisan who engineers Fox News coverage to advance Republicans and damage Democrats, something Fox has long denied. Ailes also had close ties with Giuliani, whom he advised in his first mayoral race. Giuliani officiated at Ailes’ wedding and intervened on his behalf when the Fox News Channel was blocked from securing a cable station in the city.
A News Corp. spokeswoman did not deny Ailes was the executive on the recording.
But the spokeswoman, Teri Everett, said News Corp. had a letter from Regan “stating that Mr. Ailes did not intend to influence her with respect to a government investigation.”
“The matter is closed,” Everett added.
Everett declined to release the letter, and Regan’s lawyer said News Corp.’s description of the letter did not represent Regan’s complete statement.
The new documents emerged as part of a lawsuit filed in 2008 in which Regan’s former lawyers in the News Corp. case accused her of firing them on the eve of the settlement to avoid paying them a 25 percent contingency fee. The parties in that case signed an agreement to keep the records confidential, but it does not appear a court order sealing them was sent to the clerk at state Supreme Court in Manhattan, and the records were placed in the public case file.
No transcript of the conversation between Ailes and Regan is included in the court records.
In addition to serving as chairman of Fox News, Ailes has taken a broader role at News Corp., including oversight of Fox’s local television stations and the Fox Business Network.
Depending on the specifics, the taped conversation could possibly rise to the level of conspiring to lie to federal officials, a federal crime, but prosecutors rarely pursue such cases, said Daniel Richman, a Columbia University law professor and former federal prosecutor.
“In the scheme of things there are other priorities, and these are not necessarily easy cases to make,” Richman said.