Fox News chairman Roger Ailes told a former publishing executive to lie to federal investigators who vetted now-disgraced ex-New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik for a Cabinet post in 2004, according to court documents cited in a news report Friday.
The New York Times reported that former lawyers for Judith Regan _ a one-time publishing powerhouse who worked for a unit of Fox parent News Corp. before a nasty public split _ said in sworn statements that Ailes and Regan had a taped conversation about what she'd say about Kerik. Regan had previously said a senior News Corp. executive advised her to lie and withhold information about the now-imprisoned Kerik.
But News Corp. said Regan had provided the company with a letter saying Ailes "did not intend to influence her with respect to a government investigation." In 2008, News Corp. and Regan settled a $100 million lawsuit in which she accused unnamed executives at the New York-based media empire of urging her to dissemble in the federal background probe into Kerik, with whom she'd had an affair.
"The matter is closed," the company said in a statement.
Regan declined to comment through a current lawyer, Robert E. Brown.
The episode created a stir in media and political circles from New York to Washington, and it has at least tangentially swept up a roster of prominent _ and sometimes infamous _ figures.
While at News Corp.-owned HarperCollins Publishers, Regan made a name for herself by bringing out such provocative best-sellers as Jose Canseco's "Juiced" and Jenna Jameson's "How to Make Love Like a Porn Star." But her career foundered after an outcry over her efforts to release "If I Did It," O.J. Simpson's hypothetical "confession" to the slayings of wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman. Her 2006 firing came about a month after News Corp. canceled the project.
Regan fought back by suing her former employers, saying they had tried to destroy her reputation and making the eye-catching claims that she was told "to lie to, and to withhold information from, investigators concerning Kerik" while he was being vetted to head the federal Department of Homeland Security.
Regan's lawsuit said News Corp. executives knew about her liaison with Kerik, whose memoir she had published, and they wanted to keep her from potentially damaging the presidential ambitions of Kerik patron Rudy Giuilani. The former New York mayor recommended Kerik _ whom he had appointed the city's jail chief and then police commissioner _ for the Homeland Security post.
The lawsuit didn't identify the News Corp. executive who Regan says told her to lie, nor another whom she accused of telling her to withhold documents.
But in a separate case stemming from a fee dispute with some of her former lawyers, one of them, Seth Redniss, refers in a sworn statement to "a recorded telephone call between Roger Ailes, the chairman of Fox News (a News Corp. company) and Regan, in which Mr. Ailes discussed with Regan her responses to questions regarding her personal relationship with Bernard Kerik" and says "the `Ailes' matter became a focal point of our work," according to the Times.
Another ex-Regan attorney, Brian C. Kerr, said in a sworn statement that he had reviewed "a tape recording of a conversation between her and Roger Ailes, which is alluded to throughout the complaint" in her lawsuit against News Corp., the Times said.
Court records show some statements from her ex-lawyers and other documents were deemed confidential and have been removed from the public file. Kerr and Redniss declined to comment Friday.
Regan herself referred in court filings to the existence of tapes she entrusted for a time to her former lawyers. But her settlement with News Corp. "prohibits me from confirming or denying the identity of the person whose voice appears in these tape recordings," she said in a sworn statement given in June 2009.
The fee fight is a convoluted case in itself, especially since the attorney who headed one of the firms Regan sued is serving a 20-year federal prison term. That attorney, Marc Dreier, pleaded guilty in 2009 to using impersonations and fake documents to defraud hedge funds out of more than $400 million.
Also in a federal prison is Kerik, who withdrew from consideration for the Homeland Security post amid questions about his finances and associations; he cited tax issues involving a former nanny as his reason for withdrawing. The failed bid began a downfall that spiraled into a 2009 guilty plea to tax fraud, lying to the White House and other crimes.
Giuliani ran unsuccessfully for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination, at times facing questions about the trust he'd placed in Kerik. Giuliani said he'd made mistakes in dealing with Kerik.
Asked about Regan's claims once on the campaign trail in 2007, Giuliani laughed.
"That's a gossip column story, and the last thing in the world you want to do when you're running for president is respond to gossip column-type stories," he said.