STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
We're going to hear for the first time the voice of an accuser of Roger Ailes. A former anchor sued the Fox News chairman for sexual harassment. Then other women spoke out. Now, NPR News has interviewed three of the women, including Kellie Boyle. NPR's David Folkenflik reports she was a Republican operative who revered Ailes.
DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: It was a generation ago in the nation's capital.
KELLIE BOYLE: I can remember actually just shaking in the backseat after he'd gone and just thinking, what was that - not knowing what to do, who to tell, what to think, anything. I was devastated.
FOLKENFLIK: Kellie Boyle was 27, a rising political strategist. She had met Roger Ailes several weeks earlier in a green room at CNBC studios in New Jersey. The year was 1989. Ailes, then a Republican strategist, had just helped to propel George H. W. Bush to the White House. Boyle later told him she was headed to Washington for meetings at Republican Party headquarters about a new contract she had just won. Ailes invited her to join him for dinner at Union Station.
BOYLE: I was thrilled. I really had only spent a few minutes with him up until that point, so I was anxious to hear some of his war stories.
FOLKENFLIK: A car and driver materialized after dinner.
BOYLE: As soon as we settled back into the car, he looked at me and said, if you want to play with the big boys, you're going to have to lay with the big boys.
FOLKENFLIK: As Boyle tells it, Ailes was very clear. She needed to be his special friend if she were to succeed in Washington. He said she might have to perform sexual acts on other powerful men, too.
BOYLE: I was struggling to make sense of it. And I was alternating between confused, fearful, nauseous.
FOLKENFLIK: Boyle says she told Ailes she wasn't ready to decide. The driver took her home. That meeting for her new consulting gig with the Republican Party - canceled. Boyle says Ailes called to ask how the meeting went and for a decision on his offer. She declined, and her political consulting career went sideways.
BOYLE: Anywhere I turned, I could go no higher because he blackballed me. So I kind of hopped off the career path, had children, and then kind of slowly made my way back into the working world.
FOLKENFLIK: She now does consulting for corporations. And that's Boyle's story. Ailes denies Boyle's accusations and those of former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson. Some Fox anchors and commentators are siding publicly with Ailes. Bill O'Reilly told NBC's Seth Meyers he backed Ailes 100 percent.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
BILL O’REILLY: In this country, every famous, powerful or wealthy person is a target. You're a target. I'm a target. Any time, somebody could come out and sue us, attack us, go to the press or anything like that.
FOLKENFLIK: Fox reportedly paid millions of dollars to settle an earlier sexual harassment lawsuit against O'Reilly. Carlson's lawyer concedes Boyle's allegations have little to do with Carlson's legal case, but says they fit a pattern. Republican strategist James Farwell worked with Boyle in 1990, the year after she met Ailes.
JAMES FARWELL: Her tone was one of sadness and disappointment.
FOLKENFLIK: Farwell remembers she told him all about the car ride with Ailes and the offer of a special friendship.
FARWELL: It's, in a sense, like finding the Holy Grail and discovering it was made out of plastic.
FOLKENFLIK: Ailes' representatives note most of the accusers have remained anonymous. And his associates say most of the allegations took place in a different era. Boyle asks, why does that matter?
BOYLE: I think that's absurd. I mean, when has it been OK to deny someone their livelihood? Or when has it been OK to impugn their dignity?
FOLKENFLIK: Fox tells me that Ailes is hard at work running the channel. Boyle is trying her best to make sure Carlson's claims prove impossible to ignore. David Folkenflik, NPR News, New York.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.