Ailes: A divisive media giant’s legacy
“I know you’re supposed to speak well of the dead,” said Linda Stasi in the New York Daily News. But in Roger Ailes’ case, I’m willing to make an exception. The lecherous Fox News founder, who died last week only months after leaving his company amid a flood of sexual harassment allegations, essentially “killed decency in TV news.” By dressing blond women ancho rs “like high-priced escorts” and packaging “sexism, hate-spewing rhetoric, and rumormongering” as “fair and balanced” news, he divided the country and paved the way for President Donald Trump. Good riddance. “Ailes was the Christopher Columbus of hate,” said Matt Taibbi in Rolling Stone.com. To make old white men nostalgic for the “simpler America” of their youth, Fox News portrayed the country as being overrun by “atheists, feminists, terrorists, and minorities.” Ailes cynically turned news into a consumer product tailored to the audience’s biases; other cable networks, talk show hosts, and websites followed his lead. As a result, Americans “now live in little bubbles where we get to nurse resentments and no one ever tells us we’re wrong.”
Fox News’ many critics “never could understand” its success, said The Wall Street Journal. The explanation is simple: Ailes recognized that the broadcast news networks like CBS and NBC were catering to audiences on the East and West coasts. He created Fox “for the country in between,” and thereby “rebalanced” the media landscape. The network was more nationalist, populist, and patriotic than truly conservative, said Jonah Goldberg in NationalReview.com, and it served as a muchneeded counterweight to the liberal elite’s “dim and cynical view” of traditional values. Ailes’ vision struck a chord with millions of Americans.
Yet for all his success and influence, the Fox News founder will ultimately be remembered as a serial sexual predator, said Megan Garber in TheAtlantic.com. More than two dozen female employees accused Ailes of sexual harassment—of kissing and touching them, of demanding they “turn around,” and of pressuring them for sexual favors in return for career advancement. Former anchor Gretchen Carlson recorded him saying, “You and I should have had a sexual relationship a long time ago.” In another time, Ailes might have gotten away with his gross misuse of power forever. But we live in a new era now—one in which women “have had enough” of humiliation and abuse, and are fighting back. “That, too, is Ailes’ legacy.” ■