What Roger Ailes Figured Out

Roger Ailes launched Fox News with a simple but effective premise: most news outlets were liberal, and most Americans were not.

.. He was known for ruthlessness

.. Sean Hannity, whose show airs at 10 p.m., has propagated wild theories about the murder of a Democratic National Committee staffer; on Tuesday night, after an outcry (and an embarrassing foxnews.com retraction), Hannity said he would desist.

.. Part of the genius of the network was that its existence, and its unabashed pugnacity, reliably incited outrage from other, avowedly nonpartisan media outlets, thereby reinforcing the network’s own message. By criticizing the “liberal” media, Fox News set the bait; any outlet that tried to rebut this criticism was, in a twisted way, corroborating it.

.. It is true that there were plenty of good reasons to ridicule and excoriate Fox News. But, even so, these responses only widened the partisan divide that made Fox News so successful.

.. Ailes’s strategy might have inspired his competitors to copy him.

.. But in the end, of course, MSNBC responded to Fox News by becoming a decidedly liberal news network instead, using the form that Ailes pioneered

.. This may require a more aggressive approach: a more intense focus on the leakers in the Administration, for instance, coupled with a claim that the various investigations into Trump constitute a perversion of democracy.

.. But it’s clear that the underfed audience that Ailes identified is as hungry as ever. It’s not hard to imagine that Fox News will find a way to keep feeding it.

The Roger Ailes I Knew

For six years in the 1980s, I was Roger’s right-hand man. He was on top of the world, and still saw himself as an underdog.

Born with hemophilia, he knew early that any episodes of bleeding could kill him. That, coupled with an abusive father and blue-collar poverty in Warren, Ohio, helped create the complicated, larger than life survivor figure who combatively viewed the world as “us versus them” and “real people” against the “elites.”

 .. Nobody dared to talk to them like Ailes—part Don Rickles, part psychiatrist and part motivational football coach. In meetings, commercial shoots and debate prep sessions, Roger would profanely insult the performance and physical appearance of his clients, just to get things rolling: “Even your wife would change the channel, the audience would be bored to tears—and by the way, your fly is down … ” (only said far more colorfully and explicitly).
.. When one incumbent Republican senator refused to approve attack ads against his opponent, Ailes had me prepare a brutal spot attacking our own client, showing him what the other side was preparing to do to him over his record of drunk driving. After seeing his future, the shaken senator quietly approved our ads and won a narrow reelection.
.. Roger hated to lose at anything, whether it was politics, office Ping-Pong or television awards.
.. If you want to understand his genius .. Look at the low-rent, middlebrow, highly rated “Mike Douglas Show,” which Ailes produced in the mid-to-late 1960s. Every episode required Ailes to make hundreds of creative decisions ..

Monica Lewinsky: Roger Ailes’s Dream Was My Nightmare

.. Mr. Ailes, a former Republican political operative, took the story of the affair and the trial that followed and made certain his anchors hammered it ceaselessly, 24 hours a day.

.. The story hooked viewers and made them Fox loyalists.

.. Some experts have noted that viewers found Fox for the first time because of the crisis.

.. “The Lewinsky saga put us on the news map.” As he put it in another interview: “Monica was a news channel’s dream come true.”

.. Mr. Ailes’s station may have pioneered this new style of television reportage, but the other cable news channels didn’t hesitate to join the race to the bottom.

.. Our world — of cyberbullying and chyrons, trolls and tweets — was forged in 1998. It is, as the historian Nicolaus Mills has put it, a “culture of humiliation,” in which those who prey on the vulnerable in the service of clicks and ratings are handsomely rewarded.

.. The irony of Mr. Ailes’s career at Fox — that he harnessed a sex scandal to build a cable juggernaut and then was brought down by his own — was not lost on anyone who has been paying attention.

Rogers Ailes, Hillary Clinton and Me

The Fox News makeup treatment is unlike any other in journalism. It involves false lashes, layers and layers of foundation and heavy applications of come-hither lip gloss.

.. Sexing up female reporters — even those from The New York Times — was part of the Fox News look as conceived by Roger Ailes

.. he had specific ideas about how women should treat him off-camera, as well.

While Mr. Ailes doled out attractive female anchors in revealing outfits as eye candy, his empire thrived partly on its audience’s widespread fear of the only woman who has ever had a real shot at the presidency, the person I was there that day to discuss: Hillary Clinton.

.. Over two decades, Fox News made Mrs. Clinton one of the longest-running villains on TV. Mr. Ailes would rewrite her part over the years:

  • In the 1990s, she was a bra-burning affront to stay-at-home mothers;
  • in her Senate race, she was an entitled wife riding on her husband’s coattails;
  • by the 2008 primary, she was Lady MacBeth, desperate to star in her own production.

.. But Fox News also gave something to Mrs. Clinton: proof of the “vast right-wing conspiracy

.. If there was any poetic justice, it was that a woman caused the downfall of Mr. Ailes in the end.

The dark source of Roger Ailes’s power

he was trotting out his standard case about the lack of respect he received in New York, despite his immense professional accomplishments.

.. They all look down their noses at me.” Roger was having trouble making his point, though, because of the parade of well-wishers who kept interrupting to shake his hand, kibitz and flatter

.. “Kind of undermines your point, doesn’t it? Half this restaurant is kissing your ring.” “Yeah,” he replied without irony. “But they hate doing it.”

.. That worldview of unending grievance was the cornerstone

.. The Internet did not, as is so often alleged, usher in the siloed media environment.

.. Ailes did that — by proving that there is money, influence and power to be found in serving well-defined interest groups instead of trying to please the widest possible audience.

.. Ailes knew that repetition is the key to buy-in

.. The channel’s ideological prism also insulated Fox News from the bane of traditional outlets — the slow news day

.. Producers could always unearth obscure stories that would be judged trivial by traditional journalistic standards and fit them into a larger narrative about the assault on values

.. The War on Christmas, anyone?

.. “But if you try to come after me from the right, I’ll have to kill you.”

.. he had a different objective: turn talking points into news items for millions of persuadable eyeballs.

Roger Ailes’s (Other) Legacy

Remembering the founder of Fox News also demands remembering the many women in his orbit—women who refused to be silent.

Ailes took her to the day after she accepted her job with the network. During it, she claims, Ailes asked her, “When did you first discover you were sexy?” When she replied that “I am finding this conversation very embarrassing,” her new boss persisted. “He continued to explain,” she recalls, “how much he believed in loyalty and how much he believed the best expression of that loyalty comes in the form of a ‘sexual alliance.’”

.. Other women at Fox remembered Ailes asking them a litany of personal questions, ostensibly to expose vulnerabilities that he might exploit later on. “He asked, ‘Am I in a relationship?’” one woman recalled. “‘What are my familial ties?’ It was all to see how stable or unstable I was.”

“Roger had made sure I knew the stakes, telling me: ‘I don’t like to fight, but when I do, I fight to kill.’ The message could not have been clearer: ‘If you tell anyone, I will destroy you.’”

.. But Ailes, in the end, had aged into a new context—one in which women have access to recording devices, and in which, through the internet, women have access to each others’ stories, and in which, in general, women have had enough. Secrets, now, have a way of getting out. The sins of the past have a way of becoming the scandals of the present. Women today have more ways than ever of fighting back.

Roger Ailes Has Died

Since Ailes has resigned from FNC, the channel has floundered, as Murdoch’s sons James and Lachlan attempt to re-make it in their image — a more “moderate” channel to appease the global elite. Bill O’Reilly, the primetime lineup’s ratings powerhouse, and Bill Shine, a longtime deputy to Ailes, were both ousted after waves of negative press accusing the former of sexual harassment and the latter of enabling sexual harassment.