Fox head struts his right stuff at OU

Roger Ailes, CEO of Fox News and alum of Ohio University, answers questions during the “George Washington Forum” at Baker Center in 2012.

Ohio University has responded to questions about possibly removing former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes’ name from a newsroom in OU’s Radio-Television Communications Building.

More than 20 women have accused Ailes, a 1962 OU alum, of sexual harassment and sexism, and Fox News earlier this week settled lawsuits from at least three women, including former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson, regarding Ailes' conduct.

OU spokesperson Carly Glick said in an email Thursday afternoon that “appropriate decisions will be made, but we need to exercise due diligence before we can act.” 

There’s no clear indication of what those “appropriate decisions” will be, though today's statement implies that the university hopes to take some action regarding the Roger E. Ailes Newsroom. Glick affirmed in her statement that the university has heard concerns about the university’s associations with Ailes.

“Ohio University is carefully evaluating facts surrounding allegations against Roger E. Ailes as they come to light,” spokesperson Glick wrote. “As a university, we must be deliberative when faced with matters of such great significance to our students, faculty and staff.

“We want to be clear that we value campus and community feedback. We hear you," she said.

Ailes, a former student manaager at WOUB who co-founded media giant Fox News, donated about $500,000 between 2007 and 2010 to the university to fund construction of the Roger E. Ailes Newsroom in the R-TV building. The studio is used by both WOUB Public Media student volunteers and faculty and students. Ailes also has endowed a scholarship in his name. It's similarly unclear what, if anything, OU will do about the name of that scholarship.

Earlier this week, OU's Graduate Student Senate passed a resolution to condemn Ailes’ alleged conduct and call for the university to take his name off the newsroom, a vote that has generated national media attention. Sarah Grace, an Athens Democrat who’s running for the open Ohio House seat in the 94th District, also spoke out against Ailes and OU’s ties to him in a brief speech during that meeting.

Under pressure from his employer, Ailes resigned from Fox News in July after more than 20 women, spurred on by a sexual-harassment lawsuit filed by former Fox News anchor Carlson, came forward to speak out about alleged sexual harassment and sexism on the part of Ailes and throughout Fox News.

Carlson earlier this week reached a settlement in that lawsuit against Fox News, reportedly being paid $20 million and offered a public apology by Fox. Ailes reportedly did not contribute to that payout, and continues to maintain his innocence.

Robert Stewart, director of the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at OU, provided a brief statement when asked about where the decision on the newsroom’s name will come from.

“The School of Journalism does not have the authority to remove Roger Ailes' name from the newsroom,” Stewart said Thursday. He and others have suggested that the decision must come from the President's Office, rather than the Scripps College, Scripps School of Journalism or WOUB.

Ailes has donated or pledged a total of $635,575 to OU since 1966, records show.

It appears that the university had a previous working relationship with Ailes. The NEWS obtained a copy of OU President Roderick McDavis’ expense reports for the 2014 year via a public records request, and discovered that McDavis and other OU officials attended a meeting with Ailes at Fox News headquarters in New York City in June 2014.

According to the records, McDavis, OU Provost Pam Benoit, OU Foundation President and CEO Bryan Benchoff, members of McDavis’ staff, and multiple OU Advancement (donor relations) staff all flew to NYC to attend a meeting of the OU Foundation.

The trip itinerary shows that McDavis (and possibly some of those other administrators) attended a 45-minute meeting with Ailes. It’s not clear what they discussed in that meeting with Ailes; The NEWS has reached out to OU for a response.

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