Fox News Executive Vice President Brian Lewis, the communications chief and a top strategist for the cable channel, was terminated after an internal investigation raised questions about his conduct.
“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," a spokesman for Fox News parent company 21st Century Fox said.
Fox News and 21st Century Fox declined to elaborate on Lewis' transgressions. He was let go on July 25, but the firing only came to light on Tuesday after a story about it appeared in the Hollywood Reporter. Lewis could not be reached for comment.
A member of Fox News Chairman and Chief Executive Roger Ailes' inner circle for almost two decades, Lewis was one of the most powerful executives at the network. Not only did Lewis oversee the take-no-prisoners approach Fox News brought to dealing with the press and rival news outlets, he was also something of a consigliere to Ailes.
The relationship between Lewis and Ailes was so close that it could withstand the occasional shouting match between the two. Lewis was known for being unafraid to challenge Ailes and was granted the leeway to do so because of their years together. Lewis was part of the original team that Ailes assembled to launch Fox News in the mid-1990s. The two had met when Lewis was running communications for CNBC and Ailes was building the cable channel America's Talking, which later became MSNBC.
While Fox News is part of a global media conglomerate, it is seen more as Ailes' fiefdom, and the exit of one of his top lieutenants caught other executives within 21st Century Fox off guard. Even 21st Century Fox Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch and Chief Operating Officer Chase Carey tend to take a hands-off approach when it comes to managing Ailes and Fox News.
Besides Fox News, Lewis also oversaw communications strategy for the Fox TV stations group, which is under Ailes.
No successor for Lewis has been named yet. His longtime number twos are Irena Briganti, a senior vice president of media relations in the Fox News Group, and Erica Keane, vice president of media relations for Fox Televison Stations.
Follow Joe Flint on Twitter @JBFlint.