The media have heavily covered the departure of Fox News public relations vice president Brian Lewis – far more than the exit of similarly placed executives throughout the news and entertainment industry. The news that he had been fired on July 25 leaked to The Hollywood Reporter on Tuesday, and reports quickly spread that Lewis was considered “the right-hand man to Roger Ailes.”
A Fox News source tells Breitbart News exclusively, however, that Lewis was on the outs with management for years, and that he was hardly high in the Ailes pecking order. “As usual, the media are getting it wrong, trying to blow this up into a big deal at Fox’s expense,” said the source. “The idea that idea that Brian was Roger’s ‘right hand’ is laughable in its overreach. Brian was a part of Fox, for sure, but not an essential part–that’s for damn sure.”
The Fox source stated, “In the last couple of years, Roger lost confidence in Brian and froze him out of any role in key Fox operations. Look, the guy was escorted out of the building by security–what does that tell you?”
Fox News released a statement on Tuesday regarding Lewis’ firing, explaining, “After an extensive internal investigation of Brian Lewis’ conduct by Fox News, it was determined that he should be terminated for cause, specifically for issues relating to financial irregularities, as well as for multiple, material and significant breaches of his employment contract. He was terminated for cause on July 25.”
According to the Fox source, Lewis had not attended a talent, news, programming or strategy meeting in more than two years. “If there was a decision to be made about anything that really matters at Fox–who is on the air, not on the air, what stories Fox covers, and how it covers them–Brian wasn’t there,” said the source.
Despite media reports portraying Lewis as the “right-hand man” to Ailes, the two top Ailes lieutenants at Fox News are Michael Clemente, who oversees the news and news gathering side of Fox, and Bill Shine, who oversees the opinion, debate, and analysis shows. Effectively, Clement is in charge of the daytime programming, including “Special Report with Bret Baier,” while Shine is in charge of the evening prime time hours, as well as the “Fox & Friends” morning show.
The source also confirmed that Ailes did not trust Lewis to keep Fox News business in-house.
Not surprisingly, New America Foundation fellow and New York magazine writer Gabriel Sherman has painted a glowing picture of Lewis. Sherman’s piece was headlined, “Roger Ailes Fired His PR Chief, and Now He’s All Alone.” Sherman characterized Lewis as “one of the most powerful executives at Fox News–and a moderating influence on Ailes. Lewis was one of the few senior executives who would vocally challenge Ailes (although he was smart enough to do it privately). A frequent joke around Fox was that while everyone is scared of Roger Ailes, the only person Roger Ailes is scared of is Brian Lewis.”
Our Fox News source made clear that this is a dramatic mischaracterization of the relationship between Lewis and Ailes, and suggested further that Sherman’s coverage of Lewis springs from the possibility that Lewis was a source for Sherman in his reportage against Ailes. Sherman has a book forthcoming on Roger Ailes and Fox, due out this January from Random House; the book is expected to be unfriendly to Ailes. “Gabe Sherman has a lot, now, to be worried about,” said the Fox source. “His whole book was based on his connectivity to Brian….as the world figures out that Brian didn’t have the access that some people thought he had–after all, insiders tend not to be ejected from their own workplace–Sherman’s going to have to wonder about the quality of his information.”
Ben Shapiro is Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of the New York Times bestseller “Bullies: How the Left’s Culture of Fear and Intimidation Silences America” (Threshold Editions, January 8, 2013).