Planet-sized lump of sentient shit Roger Ailes, to no one's surprise, isn't going down without a fight. On the day it was announced that the bill for the damage inflicted by his grotesquely misogynist little kingdom will start at 20 million -- the cost of 21st Century Fox's settlement with Gretchen Carlson -- it's also been revealed that Ailes may be getting ready to sue the reporter who exposed many of his dirtiest deeds. That's worth taking note of: that Ailes, the former de facto head of the propaganda arm of the "Party of Personal Responsibility," isn't actually taking any responsibility for his repugnant behavior, he's instead making implicit threats against the guy who ratted him out to the world. That guy is of course Gabe Sherman of New York Magazine, Ailes's longtime bête noire thanks to his unsparing coverage of both Fox News and Ailes himself.
If you're on Roger Ailes's enemies list, you know it -- and Sherman has known it all-too-well for years. During the time that he was writing an unauthorized biography of Ailes, published two years ago, Sherman detailed a coordinated campaign by conservative media to discredit him. So loathed was Sherman by Ailes that the Fox News head reportedly had a 400-page opposition research file on him. So angered by Sherman's ongoing scoops is Ailes that just last week it was revealed that his high-powered lawyers were preemptively attacking the reporter in savagely personal terms for a piece he was preparing to publish on how "Roger's Angels" brought down their former boss. Now there's word in the New York Times that Ailes has hired yet another lawyer -- and it's one media watchers are all too familiar with.
According to the report, New York Magazine has received a letter from Charles Harder demanding that it preserve any and all research related to Ailes in preparation for a possible defamation suit. Harder, ominously, is the lawyer who asshole Silicon Valley billionaire Peter Thiel hired to destroy Gawker by any means necessary, as part of his personal vendetta against the outlet. Harder sought out potential plaintiffs to represent in a series of lawsuits aimed at bankrupting Gawker. Turns out all it really took was one really big, and really ridiculous, suit: Hulk Hogan's Florida-based action that earned him an obscene $140 million award. Gawker couldn't afford to defend itself, even though there's apparently an outstanding chance the whole thing will be overturned or severely diminished on appeal. The site posted its final piece two weeks ago.
Harder's specialty is taking on media outlets in the name of rich and powerful clients who hate idea of a press that isn't obligated to blow kisses in the direction of their delicate egos 24/7. It would be great to think that New York will have no trouble standing up to even the most bloodthirsty onslaught from Ailes and his new legal attack dog, but the fall of Gawker changed things and it would be naive to think, in the current age of concentrated media demonization by self-pitying plutocrats, that any suit by Ailes would be automatically laughed out of court. Sherman's a good reporter -- and Ailes is a bully who just isn't used to not getting his way -- but it's not always the point to outright win a defamation lawsuit, certainly with facts and legitimate arguments. Sometimes the point is simply to drown a news outlet in a protracted legal battle and to send the message to other news outlets that it just isn't worth it to pick a fist fight with somebody who'll bring a Howitzer.
True, New York isn't Gawker and Gabe Sherman isn't A.J. Daulerio -- the Gawker editor who cleared the Hulk Hogan story for publication -- but if you think Gawker was punished solely because of the kind of operation it was and that other "better" outlets are safe in the aftermath of its collapse, you're a fucking idiot. Donald Trump regularly slams the "dishonest" media and promises to make it easier to sue them should he unthinkably win the White House; a billionaire shuttered an incredibly successful New York City-based website and media company; now Ailes is apparently siccing a notorious attorney -- the guy behind the lawsuit that crushed that aforementioned website -- on a journalistic operation and a man who's simply printing true material Ailes happens not to like. It wouldn't be wise to take anything for granted at this point.
Gabe Sherman almost certainly has all his ducks in a row on his Ailes reporting. Knowing the temperament and litigiousness of his target, there's no way he left anything to chance. But the Constitution and the truth have proven to occasionally be no match for immense wealth and near-infinite legal resources. In the face of that kind of threat, anything is possible.
Oh, by the way, Ailes was right to fear Sherman's most recent story on him -- the one on the revenge of "Roger's Angels." It was devastating. Absolutely devastating to both him and to Fox News, whose management covered for Ailes, turning the entire operation into a snake pit of sexism, for years. Any woman -- hell, any decent human being -- who remains there in the aftermath of this scandal should be ashamed of themselves.