Fox News executive and Roger Ailes acolyte Brian Lewis was fired and escorted out of the cable news station’s Manhattan headquarters earlier this month, marking an unprecedented departure from the channel’s tightly-knit leadership. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Lewis was let go amidst unspecified “financial issues” and “complaints about complacency.” Whether that implies something boring (Lewis’s salary) or interesting (actual malfeasance), Fox’s notoriously cruel PR team is—for now, at least—in the hands of its most notorious flack: Irena Briganti.

Brian Lewis has long been considered one of the most loyal lieutenants of Fox News President Roger Ailes, who hired Lewis in April 1996 — seven months before the channel started broadcasting. With Briganti, Lewis transformed public relations into a full-on contact sport: haranguing anyone who wrote anything remotely negative about the channel, pitting beat reporters against editors, and smearing especially disobedient journalists. Now the machine he created has turned on him.

Per The Hollywood Reporter:

Insiders say that their close relationship made it difficult for Ailes to cut Lewis loose, but the financial issues — details of which were not available Tuesday — coupled with complaints about complacency and other matters, left Ailes feeling as if he had no other choice.

Though the exact nature of the problems swirling around Lewis weren’t known to rank-and-file staffers, witnesses say they amounted to a serious enough breach that it was necessary he be escorted from his office at Fox News headquarters in New York.

Fox News has hidden the departure pretty well until today. Lewis is still listed on the channel’s website (update: Lewis’ page is now deleted), his email address remains valid, and his phone number, when called this afternoon, played a voicemail greeting recorded by Lewis.

Update: Fox News responds, citing “financial irregularities”:

After an extensive internal investigation of Brian Lewis’ conduct by Fox News, it was determined that he should be terminated for cause, specifically for issues relating to financial irregularities, as well as for multiple, material and significant breaches of his employment contract. He was terminated for cause on July 25.

[Image of Brian Lewis removed at request of copyright owner.]

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