The Plot Thickens: Conservative Host Eric Bolling is Suspended by Fox News
By Peter Barry Chowka
One-by-one, key players at Fox News are being taken out by allegations that remain untested in any judicial proceedings. On Friday evening August 4 at 8:23 PM, an article was published at HuffPost: “Fox News Host Sent Unsolicited Lewd Text Messages To Colleagues, Sources Say.” The article had obviously been in preparation for some time, since it included a statement from Bolling’s attorney defending his client. The host is Eric Bolling, 54, a friend of President Donald Trump, and a defender of the president in his role as a prominent anchor and co-host on the Fox News channel (FNC).
Friday night, after seeing the HuffPost article, which was also mass distributed by Yahoo News, FNC executives, according to a Fox News spokesperson, decided that Bolling’s weekly half hour Saturday morning FNC show Cashin’ In, that had already been pre-recorded as usual on Friday, would not be shown. A live news broadcast was substituted instead. On Saturday, an FNC spokesperson issued a terse statement: “Eric Bolling has been suspended pending the results of an investigation, which is currently underway.” Later Saturday afternoon, an FNC spokesperson emailed me with this additional information.
Paul, Weiss is conducting the investigation.
Rotating substitute hosts will be in place on The Specialists (weekdays/5pm) and Cashin In’ (Saturdays at 11:30am).
After the suspension was announced, Bolling’s attorney Michael J. Bowe defended his client in an email, according to the AP:
“The anonymous, uncorroborated claims are untrue and terribly unfair. We intend to fully cooperate with the investigation so that it can be concluded and Eric can return to work as quickly as possible.”
The Fox News Specialists, which Bolling co-hosts, is the hour-long M-F program that was added to the FNC schedule on May 1 at 5 PM ET when The Five, a similar talk program that previously held the time slot, was moved to 9 PM. Prior to working in television, Bolling was an independent trader based out of the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX), and he also served on the NYMEX’s Board of Directors for five years. He is a reliable conservative, and has been a Fox Business Network (FBN) and Fox News Channel personality since 2007. Bolling’s trademark has been his disinclination to wear a necktie except when he was required to do so, for example when he occasionally filled in as a substitute host for Bill O’Reilly in prime time. Bolling had made a leap to prominence as one of The Five’s original co-hosts when the program premiered on July 11, 2011, quickly becoming one of the most popular programs on the channel. In late April 2017, Suzanne Scott, Executive Vice President of Programming at Fox News, announced that Bolling had been selected to co-host the new program The Fox News Specialists along with Eboni K. Williams and Kat Timpf.
L. to R.: Eboni K. Williams, Eric Bolling, Kat Timpf
Paul, Weiss (formally Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP) is a large, prominent, New York based international law firm that was founded in 1875. It employs over 950 attorneys at offices around the U.S. and in major foreign capitals. The firm has been enlisted several times during the past year – possibly in an ongoing basis – to “investigate” a number of allegations of sexual harassment that were leveled at prominent Fox News executives and on-air talent. After investigations of Fox News co-founder and CEO Roger Ailes, number one host Bill O’Reilly, and several other Fox executives, they all left the company, either fired outright or after being forced to resign. All of the departed individuals, it should be noted for the record, have consistently professed their innocence. (Ailes passed away on May 18, 2017 and maintained his innocence until the end of his life.) None of the allegations against any of the individuals accused in the media has made it to court where they could have, or might have had as in the case of Ailes, an opportunity to defend themselves.
Only two months ago, on June 5, Fox News announced that Bolling had been signed to a “multiyear” contract. In a news release, Suzanne Scott, president of programming for FNC, said:
“Eric has cultivated a strong fan base and has become a staple to the FOX News brand. His insight is valued and we are pleased to have him at the network for many more years to come “
On Saturday evening, August 5, the official Fox News Web page for The Specialists was not loading. One presumes that it might have been taken offline while it is being updated. The program’s official Twitter page was still functioning, and while it continued to display numerous photos and video clips that included Bolling, it had removed his name from the program’s description:
Hosted by @kattimpf & @ebonikwilliams. Tune in weekdays at 5pm ET on @FoxNews Channel!
Yashar Hedayat – or is that Ali?
The author of the August 4 HuffPost article that started this whole affair that resulted in Bolling’s suspension and uncertainty about his future on FNC is identified as Yashar Ali. This is the gist of his article:
Eric Bolling, a longtime Fox News host, sent an unsolicited photo of male genitalia via text message to at least two colleagues at Fox Business and one colleague at Fox News, a dozen sources told HuffPost.
Recipients of the photo confirmed its contents to HuffPost, which is not revealing their identities. The women, who are Bolling’s current and former Fox colleagues, concluded the message was from him because they recognized his number from previous work-related and informal interactions. The messages were sent several years ago, on separate occasions.
Yashar Ali’s real, or full, name is Yashar Ali Hedayat (see below). The first mention of him as Yashar Hedayat in the media was in 2009 as a $131,000 a year aide to San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom.
According to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle on December 22, 2009:
The son of a wealthy family in Chicago, Hedayat never attended college, instead moving to Los Angeles to pursue a career in Hollywood. He worked as a production assistant on TV shows including “ER” and “Chicago Hope.”
He then became interested in politics, working on Steve Westly’s 2006 campaign for governor and Hillary Rodham Clinton’s run for president before joining Newsom’s campaign. A former federal lobbyist, he has given thousands of dollars to Democratic candidates.
After a relatively short career in Hollywood, Yashar Ali Hedayat worked to raise campaign contributions for Hillary Clinton in 2008. Subsequently, he communicated with her and Bill Clinton about raising money for a center at Stanford University to honor the life and work of liberal voting rights activist Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH), who died suddenly of an aneurysm in 2008 at age 58. Ali Hedayat and the Hillary Clinton’s email communications about the proposed Tubbs Jones center at Stanford came to light when the State Department released some of Hillary Clinton’s emails in 2016.
An article about the proposed Tubbs Jones center, published by The Cleveland Plain Dealer on August 29, 2016, makes prominent reference to Hedayat, whom it notes moved to New York and began blogging and writing under the name Yashar Ali:
Hedayat, 36, moves freely in and out of politics and media, writing and blogging under the name “Yashar Ali” (Ali is his middle name, he said).
According to the Plain Dealer, Hedayat registered as a lobbyist in Beverly Hills, California in 2006 and 2007 and in 2008 raised $100,000 for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. In recent years, as Yashar Ali, he has written for New York Magazine and the Daily Beast, in addition to HuffPost. He has also written a dating advice book, Who Does He Think He Is?: Candid Advice from a Man Who’s Been There (2014, New Harvest).
The removal of Bolling from his on-air duties at Fox News comes within the context of major, highly visible changes at the channel during the past year. Just over one year ago, Roger Ailes, the acknowledged mastermind of Fox News’ success, left the company. That landmark event represented the beginning of a sea change at the news channel. An indirect result was the departure for NBC News of the channel’s prime time marquee host and the co-anchor of special events coverage Megyn Kelly in early January 2017. On April 19, 2017, after an advertiser boycott of his show that was continuing to gain momentum, Bill O’Reilly left Fox and his #1 program that aired nightly at 8 PM. On May 1, Bill Shine, an Ailes protégé who had played a major programming role at FNC since Ailes’s departure, also left.
These and several other departures upended FNC’s prime time schedule that had dominated the cable news ratings for the previous fifteen years. While Fox News is still competitive against MSNBC and CNN, each night in prime time is now a battleground for viewers, in both the preferred “demo” (the demographic slice of viewers ages 25-54 that most advertisers covet) and the total number of people watching television.
Even before the schedule changes this past spring, there were reports that Eric Bolling, clearly a rising talent at the channel, was reportedly under consideration for an expanded role, possibly as the host of his own show or to replace Bill O’Reilly after the latter’s firing. Until last Friday, Bolling was the stalwart conservative co-host of The Specialists and a consistent defender of the Trump Administration and its agenda while his co-hosts on the program, moderate or left of center attorney Eboni K. Williams and Libertarian former comedian Kat Timpf, were usually more skeptical of the POTUS.
If past is prologue, the announcement that attorneys from Paul, Weiss will be doing the investigating does not bode well for the outcome of the Bolling affair. All of their previous investigations have been associated with the targets ultimately leaving the channel. And for what it’s worth, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, Paul, Weiss was among the top twenty law firms in the country contributing to federal candidates during the 2012 election cycle – a total of $1.23 million donated by the firm’s employees with 81% of that going to the Democrats.
The Case of Charles V. Payne
Also currently in limbo is the FNC and Fox Business Network’s popular conservative host Charles V. Payne. He was suspended and taken off the air after his July 6, 2017 FBN show following allegations published in the National Enquirer the day before that he had sexually harassed a female guest. Payne admitted having a three year long relationship with the woman, which he insisted was consensual while denying any harassment or other wrongdoing other than poor judgment.
The Washington Post reported on July 7:
The suspension [of Payne] came after the National Enquirer on Wednesday published an article in which Payne admitted to carrying on a three-year “romantic relationship” with a married female political analyst who was a regular guest on Fox Business, and apologized to his wife, children and friends.
“We take issues of this nature extremely seriously and have a zero-tolerance policy for any professional misconduct,” a Fox Business spokesman said in a statement to The Post. “This matter is being thoroughly investigated and we are taking all of the appropriate steps to reach a resolution in a timely manner.”
Payne, 56, a prolific user of Twitter – he has tweeted over 75,000 times since 2009 – continues to tweet multiple times daily about the news of the day to his 175,000 Twitter followers. On July 7, he published several tweets relating to his suspension:
Days ago a reporter contacted me about (false) allegations and asked for a comment. I gave an immediate reply. He reported story w/out them
This was my reply: “That is an ugly lie I vehemently deny to my core. There is a mountain of proof that also proves it’s a lie.”
It appears from the Los Angeles Times’ reporting that it is in fact the Paul, Weiss firm that is also investigating the allegations against Charles Payne.
Peter Barry Chowka is a veteran journalist who writes about national politics, media, popular culture, and health care. He is a frequent contributor to American Thinker, the source for TLB republishing this article. His new website is AltMedNews.net. Peter’s July 28, 2017 90-minute interview on The Hagmann Report can be watched here.
Follow TLB on Twitter @thetlbproject