Amid a probe of sexual harassment at Fox Sports, the company announced Monday that it had fired its controversial head of sports programming, Jamie Horowitz.
Horowitz’s dismissal came less than a week after 21st Century Fox began investigating allegations of sexual harassment in the workplace at Fox Sports. The company hired a law firm, which began interviewing women at Fox Sports about Horowitz’s behavior, according to a person familiar with the investigation who was not authorized to publicly discuss it.
Several women, including prominent on-air personalities, have already been interviewed about their treatment at Fox Sports, according to two people familiar with the investigation.
“Everyone at FOX Sports, no matter what role we play, or what business, function or show we contribute to — should act with respect and adhere to professional conduct at all times,” Fox Sports President Eric Shanks said in an email to staff members, announcing Horowitz’s departure.
“These values are non-negotiable,” he said.
Late Friday, Horowitz — the president of Fox Sports National Networks — was told to report to his West Los Angeles office at 8 a.m. Monday for a meeting. That request, his attorney says, was the first indication to Horowitz that anything was amiss.
“The way Jamie has been treated by Fox is appalling,” said Horowitz’s attorney Patricia L. Glaser. “At no point in his tenure was there any mention by his superiors or human resources of any misconduct, or an inability to adhere to professional conduct. Jamie was hired by Fox to do a job that until today he was performing in exemplary fashion.
“Any slanderous accusations to the contrary will be vigorously defended.”
Fox Sports is an arm of Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox, which has been struggling to contain allegations of sexual harassment for nearly a year. In July 2016, Fox fired its powerful chairman of Fox News, Roger Ailes, amid allegations that he made lewd comments and created an atmosphere of intimidation. Gretchen Carlson, a former Fox News co-host, filed a lawsuit in July that exposed the allegations against Ailes, who died in May. Fox spent more than $40 million settling claims of harassment at its news division.
In May, Fox fired its star conservative host Bill O’Reilly amid another sexual harassment probe.
The allegations of sexual harassment at Los Angeles-based Fox Sports suggest the problems were not only at Fox News, but extend to the West Coast.
Horowitz had a short and rocky tenure at NBC’s “Today” show, before being fired just months into the job. Before that, he was a rising star in the executive ranks at Walt Disney Co.’s ESPN.
Horowitz joined Fox Sports in 2015, and immediately overhauled its programming strategy to promote big names, such as Skip Bayless and Colin Cowherd. His ouster comes amid much upheaval at Fox Sports. Last week, the company laid off writers at Fox Sports digital properties amid a corporate move to focus more on videos and not reported stories.
“Until Jamie’s replacement is named, I am stepping in to handle his former responsibilities including programming, marketing and scheduling for FS1 and FS2, as well as digital,” Shanks said. “All of these functions will now report directly to me.”
“We understand how difficult this will be for many of you, but in these times it is important that we remain unwavering and focused in continuing the great work of FOX Sports,” Shanks said.
SOURCE: L.A. Times – Meg James