Brian Lewis should have seen the writing on the wall when he lost his sweet office space. Lewis had been Roger Ailes' top PR guy at Fox News for 17 years, but Ailes began to suspect Lewis was working with the author of a forthcoming book about the Fox News chief that's expected to be less than flattering. Lewis had long had two offices, Politico's Mike Allen reports: "one near Ailes's suite on the second floor of the former News Corp. tower in midtown Manhattan, and another on the 22nd floor." Lewis lost his office near Ailes in July 2012. A year later, he was fired and escorted out of the building.
Allen reports that Fox executives say Lewis' suspected cooperation with Gabriel Sherman (whose book, The Loudest Voice in the Room: The Inside Story of How Roger Ailes and Fox News Remade American Politics, will be released early next year) was not the only reason Ailes lost faith in his longtime employee. But an executive said, "Roger lost faith in him and started poking around, digging around, and came up with a slew of stuff. ... After an internal investigation, it became abundantly clear that Brian was operating outside the culture of the company, and thus violated his contract, so Roger let him go." Like many on-air Fox stars said publicly on Wednesday, this executive says Lewis was not really Ailes' right-hand man.
Even if Lewis' suspected cooperation with Sherman's book isn't the only reason he was fired, Ailes' suspicion fits into a pattern we've seen over the last year as Sherman reported his book. Ailes picked reporter Zev Chafets to write a largely positive biography about him, which was published in March. "Within the television industry, Mr. Chafets’s book is widely seen as an attempt to get out ahead of Mr. Sherman’s book," The New York Times' Brian Stelter reported. "Perhaps the better word for it is 'prebuttal,' a word political operatives sometimes use." Sherman's release date had been May 2013, but it was delayed.
This year, Fox sources have personally attacked Sherman in articles from places like Breitbart.com. (Example: "The Fox source further added: 'The person who has the least insight into Roger’s opinions is Gabe Sherman...'") In June, Jonathan Alter got the same treatment after the publication The Center Holds: Obama and His Enemies, a about the 2012 campaign. Fox is the subject of only one chapter in Alter's book, but a few anecdotes drew enough attention that Fox's PR team kicked into high gear. Politico published a 12-point rebuttal to Alter written by Ailes. An anonymous Fox spokesman gave Mediaite an "exclusive comment" notable for the personal tone. (It begain, "Jonathan Alter is living in an altered universe…") Alter told The Atlantic Wire in June maybe Fox was "blindsided" by his book, and "they realized their slash and burn PR team was asleep at the switch."
Despite being attacked by his former employer, Lewis seems to be taking the high road. He told TVNewswer, "There has been rampant speculation surrounding my departure from Fox that I am not addressing at this time… I will say it has been an honor and privilege to work for Roger Ailes the past 20 years and I wish nothing but the best for him and the great people at Fox News."