CLEVELAND — Fox News’s feared spokeswoman is no longer spokeswoman-ing, according to New York magazine’s Gabriel Sherman. Irena Briganti, the career Fox News spinmeister who has run Roger Ailes’s PR department for the past few years, has been silenced by the corporate overlords at 21st Century Fox. Not only is Briganti not allowed to communicate with the media about the impending departure of Ailes from the company following a sexual harassment complaint, but she also can’t communicate with Ailes himself, Sherman reports.
Yet another stunning and unfathomable turn of events. Briganti has spent the past two decades doggedly defending Ailes.
Though Briganti has led the Fox News media-relations group for the past few years, she was present for some of the more ghastly episodes of previous years, like the time that the department slid false information to a reporter in an effort to discredit him. Or the time in 2005 that it circulated an unflattering photo of an employee who’d stepped out of line. A recent story by Sherman alleged that Briganti was similarly sliming host Megyn Kelly, who reportedly told outside investigators with the law firm Paul, Weiss that Ailes had sexually harassed her a decade ago — though documentary evidence of that allegation is scarce.
It’s unclear whether that allegation prompted the reported silencing of Briganti. Sherman himself puts things this way: “Her sidelining comes after New York reported that she has been criticizing Megyn Kelly to reporters.”
Briganti hasn’t returned the last few inquiries from the Erik Wemple Blog, and others have gotten the email freeze-out as well.
As this blog noted yesterday, Briganti’s PR shop is an aggressive, badgering operation that feels like a team of “shadow editors,” in the phrasing of Post media reporter Paul Farhi. They have operated over the years as an extension of Ailes and his scorched-earth approach to PR. The group’s power has both external and internal dimensions: It slams reporters who don’t treat Fox News properly, and it has been known to hammer employees who don’t hew to the company line — or who leave on bad terms. Think of the nasty words it put together upon the departure of pundit Bob Beckel.
Here in the corridors of the Republican National Convention, the power of Fox News PR holds sway. Numerous attempts to interview Fox News personnel about the Ailes situation have ended in stiff-arms. “I’m talking to my wife,” said an earbuds-wearing Fox News host Steve Doocy when we approached him on Tuesday.