"Ailes' claim that Gretchen Carlson was terminated because of bad ratings is demonstrably false," Carlson's lawyers tell PEOPLE

By Christina Dugan Lanford Beard
July 07, 2016 11:10 AM

Gretchen Carlson is not backing down after Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes, whom she is suing for sexual harassment, called her claims "offensive," "retaliatory" and "wholly without merit."

Carlson’s legal team released a statement on Thursday disputing Ailes’ response to the lawsuit.

“Ailes’ claim that Gretchen Carlson was terminated because of bad ratings is demonstrably false,” the statement begins. “The publicly available ratings confirm the allegation in the Complaint that at the time of her termination Gretchen’s total viewership was up 33 percent year to date and up 23 percent in the key demographic. After her firing from Fox & Friends for complaining about discrimination, Gretchen was moved to a challenging time slot and denied support and promotion. Despite this, she succeeded and was the number one cable news show in her time slot in total viewers.”

The statement continues, “Regarding Ailes’ claims that Gretchen’s allegations are false, we challenge him to deny, under oath, that he made the statements attributed to him in the Complaint.”

“Finally, Ailes does not allow his employees to speak to the press or publish anything without prior approval,” Carlson’s team alleges. “Gretchen was chastised for answering a question from a hometown newspaper about her favorite Minnesota State Fair food. In her book Gretchen told her story while trying to keep her job – knowing that Ailes had to approve what she said.”

A source with knowledge of the situation told PEOPLE that Carlson’s move to the 2 p.m. time slot was not a demotion, as it bumped her from a co-host to a singular anchor and a name brand show.

“Additionally, she was provided the opportunity to build her own team from the ground up – including her choice of EP (executive producer) and full staff,” the source said. “If she was demoted, she would have been moved to weekends or overnights, not a plum spot in daytime.”

The source continued: “When Gretchen was told we weren’t renewing her contract, she was handed a severance agreement. She told us that she would get back to us on July 6th when she returned from her planned vacation which she took the week of June 27th leading into the July 4th holiday.

“Out of respect for her, we kept everything status quo until the severance agreement was finalized. We did not owe her a dime after June 23rd, but we put a severance agreement together out of respect for her 11 years here.”

The source adds that Carlson’s name stayed on The Real Story, the website and all social media accounts in the interim as “an effort not to harm her,” and still maintains that Carlson was let go because of her ratings.

“She went and scorched the earth with no warning whatsoever in a vindictive effort to viscously harm Ailes after her contract was not renewed due to ratings issues,” the source told PEOPLE.

According to Nielsen Media Research, The Real Story with Gretchen has consistently been FNC’s lowest-rated show with adults 25-54 in every quarter for the last two years, beginning with quarter 1 in 2014 and continuing through quarter 2 in 2016.

“This is a new low even for Gretchen and her opportunistic publicity hound lawyer – there’s absolutely no truth to this latest anonymous accusation,” a Fox News spokesperson told PEOPLE.

On Wednesday, the 50-year-old former anchor of The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson filed suit alleging that Ailes, 76, had “sabotaged her career because she refused sexual advances and complained about severe and pervasive sexual harassment.”

According to the legal filing: “As a direct and proximate result of her refusing his sexual advances and in retaliation for Carlson’s complaints about discrimination and harassment, Ailes terminated her employment, causing her significant, emotional and professional harm.”

A Fox News spokesperson tells PEOPLE, “This is a new low even for Gretchen and her opportunistic publicity hound lawyer – there’s absolutely no truth to this latest anonymous accusation.”

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