Two Ailes Defenders Now Say They Were Wrong About Fox Leader

(Bloomberg) -- Geraldo Rivera and Greta Van Susteren, two prominent Fox News personalities who defended Roger Ailes after he was accused of sexual harassment, said they now realize it was going on without their knowledge.

Their new statements follow the announcement this week that 21st Century Fox Inc. had settled a lawsuit by former anchor Gretchen Carlson for $20 million. Ailes stepped down as chairman and chief executive officer of Fox News in July. Fox has also settled with other women, a person familiar with the matter said this week.

“I apologize for my skepticism,” Rivera said in a Facebook post Thursday night. “Like victims of sexual assault, those alleging harassment deserve the presumption of credibility.”

Rivera and Van Susteren are part of a large group of Fox News reporters and anchors who came out in Ailes’s defense in the wake of the allegations. The scandal has roiled the most profitable of 21st Century Fox’s cable channels behind the scenes, with Chairman Rupert Murdoch filling Ailes’s role as chairman of the network to restore order. Despite the turmoil, Fox News has continued to enjoy the highest ratings in its history amid the U.S. presidential election.

Susan Estrich, an attorney for Ailes, didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Van Susteren, who left the New York-based network this week, said in a Twitter post Friday that her departure was unrelated to the sexual-harassment claims.

“I had no idea about that,” she said. “It was hidden and I worked in DC, not NYC.”

In July, she had referred to Carlson as a “disgruntled employee,” telling People magazine that the allegation that Ailes had harassed Carlson “doesn’t have any ring of truth to me. I would have heard it. People don’t keep things silent.”

At the time, Van Susteren had felt Carlson’s allegations were inconsistent with her own experience at Fox News, she said in a Facebook post Friday.

“We all regret it,” she said. “But I have regrets beyond Geraldo’s and beyond not believing a civil complaint written by lawyers. I regret that Roger Ailes was not supervised by those in a public corporation who had the duty to supervise him.”

A spokesman for 21st Century Fox declined to comment.

Rivera told his Twitter followers in July, “Don’t believe the crap about Roger Ailes.” On Thursday, he said he had paid the price for his mistake. A memoir he was writing was scrapped by publisher HarperCollins because of its “flattering portrayal” of Ailes, he said.

HarperCollins never made an offer on Rivera’s book, said a spokeswoman for the publisher, which is owned by News Corp., Murdoch’s other company.

“To all the victims of sexual harassment, direct and indirect, I am sorry for what happened to you,” Rivera said. “If you see harassment, say harassment, even if the alleged offender is an old friend.”