One of the most-watched networks in the American cable news has already had a hell of a bad year. And judging by a recent report, things may be getting worse: the ongoing federal investigation of Fox News is reportedly widening, looping in a new agency to help in the Justice Department's probe of the network's financial affairs.
Fox News, for the record, has broadly denied wrongdoing regarding the damaging allegations that have been laid out against it over the past year. In particular, the claims of sexual harassment and misconduct by departed CEO Roger Ailes and fired anchor Bill O'Reilly (both men also adamantly denied all allegations), as well as a class-action lawsuit filed this week that alleges a climate of racial discrimination fostered by the network's higher-ups.
According to CBS News, while the Department of Justice's investigation has been public knowledge dating back to February, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service is now also getting involved. Again, although Fox News has denied any wrongdoing, it's a fair bet that nobody involved with the network is pleased with this new development. Even with the probe ongoing and the specific details of what's being investigated still largely unknown to the public, words like "widening federal investigation" have a way of drawing negative attention.
As CNN's Brian Stelter notes, the Postal Inspection Service's involvement is noteworthy because of the sorts of crimes that fall under its purview: It handles wire fraud and mail fraud cases, which may be an indication of the direction the investigation is heading.
Back when the investigation was first revealed to the public, a Fox News spokesperson stated that the network was in full cooperation with federal authorities:
In short, it's simply too early to get a definitive grasp of what exactly these agencies are looking for, and what potential consequences or fallout the investigation could have. However, outside appearances have suggested that Fox News is in some state of internal tension and turmoil at the moment, with longtime anchor Sean Hannity publicly accusing someone within the company (without naming names) of trying to get network's co-President Bill Shine fired.
Somebody HIGH UP AND INSIDE FNC is trying to get an innocent person fired. And Gabe I KNOW WHO it is. Best Sean https://t.co/W3BJ2wjzRD— Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) April 27, 2017
In short, it's looking like turmoil and tumult galore over at the Fox News headquarters. Interestingly, it comes at a time when Fox News' chief competitor, the left-leaning MSNBC, is riding renewed progressive fervor in the Trump era to a serious ratings surge.
That's not to say the conservative network isn't still killing it as far as viewership is concerned ― since its inception back in 1996, it's reliably been the most-watched cable news channel in the country. But it's fair to say that its future looks more uncertain right now than at any other point in its history, and at a seemingly quite vulnerable time.