Roger Ailes

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Roger Ailes
Roger Ailes, June 2013.jpg
Born Roger Eugene Ailes
(1940-05-15) May 15, 1940 (age 82)
Warren, Ohio
Died Script error: The function "death_date_and_age" does not exist.
Palm Beach, Florida, U.S.
Cause of death Subdural hematoma
Alma mater Ohio University
Occupation Former President of Fox News
Chairman Fox Television Stations Group
Political party Republican Party
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Tilson (1998–)
Children 1

Roger Eugene Ailes (May 15, 1940 - May 18, 2017) was an American television executive. He was the Chairman and CEO of Fox News and the Fox Television Stations Group. Ailes was a media consultant for Republican presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush,[1] and for Rudy Giuliani’s first mayoral campaign (1989).

Early life

Ailes was born and grew up in the factory town of Warren, Ohio, the son of Donna Marie (née Cunningham) and Robert Eugene Ailes, a factory maintenance foreman.[2] Ailes suffers from hemophilia and was often hospitalized as a youth. He attended the Warren city schools, and later was inducted into Warren High School's Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame.[3] His father was abusive, and his parents divorced in 1960.[4] In 1962, Ailes received a bachelor's degree from Ohio University in Athens, Ohio.[5]


Early television

Ailes' career in television began in Cleveland and Philadelphia, where he started as Property Assistant (1962), Producer (1965), and Executive Producer (1967–68) for KYW-TV,[6] for a then-locally produced talk-variety show, The Mike Douglas Show. He continued as Executive Producer for the show when it was syndicated nationally, and in 1968 was nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award for it.[7]

In 1967, Ailes had a spirited discussion about television in politics with one of the show's guests, Richard Nixon, who took the view that television was a gimmick.[8][page needed] Later, Nixon called on Ailes to serve as his Executive Producer for television. Nixon's election victory was Ailes's first venture into the political spotlight. His pioneering work in framing national campaign issues and making the stiff Nixon more likeable and accessible to voters[9][page needed] was later chronicled in The Selling of the President 1968 by Joe McGinniss.[10][page needed]

Political consulting

In 1987 and 1988, Ailes was credited (along with Lee Atwater) with guiding George H. W. Bush to victory in the Republican primaries and the later come-from-behind[11] victory over Michael Dukakis. Ailes scripted and (with Sig Rogich) produced the "Revolving Door" ad, as well as all of Bush's broadcast spots in the primary and general-election campaigns.[citation needed]

Ailes is credited with the "Orchestra Pit Theory" regarding sensationalist political coverage in the news media, which originated with his quip:

"If you have two guys on a stage and one guy says, 'I have a solution to the Middle East problem,' and the other guy falls in the orchestra pit, who do you think is going to be on the evening news?"[12]

Ailes's last campaign was the unsuccessful effort of Richard Thornburgh for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania in November 1991.[citation needed] He announced his withdrawal from political consulting in 1992.[citation needed] Though he aided with behind-the-scenes speechwriting and coaching in 1992 for both President and Mrs. Bush at the GOP Convention in Houston, Ailes did not work on the unsuccessful 1992 Bush re-election campaign against Bill Clinton.[citation needed]

Ailes's TV ads for the 1988 Bush campaign were extensively examined in the award-winning documentary film Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story.[citation needed]

Days after the 9/11 attacks, Ailes gave President George W. Bush political advice indicating that the American public would be patient as long as they were convinced that Bush was using the harshest measures possible.[13] The correspondence was revealed in Bob Woodward's book Bush At War.[page needed] Ailes lashed out against Woodward, saying "Woodward got it all screwed up, as usual," and "The reason he's not as rich as Tom Clancy is that while he and Clancy both make stuff up, Clancy does his research first."[14] Ailes refused to release a copy of the memo he sent to Bush.[15]


In 1988, Ailes wrote a book with long-time aide Jon Kraushar, called You Are the Message: Secrets of the Master Communicators,[16] in which he discusses some of his philosophies and strategies for successful performance in the public eye.

Chairman of Fox Television Stations

After the departure of Lachlan Murdoch from News Corporation, Ailes was named Chairman of the Fox Television Stations Group on August 15, 2005. Following his newest assignment, one of his first acts was canceling A Current Affair in September 2005 and replacing it with a new Geraldo Rivera show titled Geraldo at Large, which debuted on Halloween, 2005. Rivera's show drew about the same ratings as A Current Affair[17] in January 2007. Ailes decided to cancel Geraldo at Large to move Rivera back on Fox News Channel.

Ailes also hired former CBS executive Dennis Swanson in October 2005 to be president of the Fox Television Stations Group. Additionally, there have been changes in affiliates' news programs with the standardization of Fox News Channel-like graphics, redesigned studios, news-format changes, and the announcement of a new morning television show called The Morning Show with Mike and Juliet to be produced by Fox News Channel.[citation needed]

In October 2012, his contract with the network was renewed for four years, through 2016, at which time he will have served as head of Fox News Channel for twenty years. Salary terms were not made public, although his earnings for the 2012 fiscal year were a reported $21 million inclusive of bonuses.[18] In addition to heading Fox News and chairing Fox Television Stations, Ailes also chairs Twentieth Television, MyNetwork TV and Fox Business Network.[19]

Sexual harassment allegations and resignation

In a book published in 2014, Gabriel Sherman[20] alleged that, in the 1980s, Ailes offered a television producer a raise if she would sleep with him.[21] Fox News denied the allegation and rejected the authenticity of Sherman's book.[21]

On July 6, 2016, former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Ailes. Carlson alleged that she had been fired for rebuffing Ailes' advances.[22][23] Ailes, through his attorney, Susan Estrich, denied the charges.[24][25] Three days later, Gabriel Sherman reported accounts from six women (two publicly and four anonymously) who alleged sexual harassment by Ailes.[26] In response, Ailes' counsel released a statement: "It has become obvious that Ms. Carlson and her lawyer are desperately attempting to litigate this in the press because they have no legal case to argue. The latest allegations, all 30 to 50 years old, are false."[26]

Ten days later, New York magazine reported that an internal review into Carlson's claims had expanded into a broader review of Ailes' stewardship. It also claimed Rupert Murdoch and his sons, Lachlan and James, had seen enough information in the preliminary review to conclude that Ailes had to go. They disagreed on the timing, however; James wanted Ailes out immediately, while Rupert and Lachlan wanted to wait until after the Republican National Convention.[27] On July 19, New York reported that Megyn Kelly told investigators Ailes made "unwanted sexual advances toward her" at the start of her career. The magazine also reported that the Murdochs had given Ailes an ultimatum—resign by August 1 or be fired.[28]

On July 21, Ailes resigned from Fox News, receiving $40 million[29] from Fox in an exit agreement. Rupert Murdoch succeeded him as chairman, and as interim CEO until the naming of a permanent replacement.[30][31] In a letter to Murdoch[32] Ailes said, "I will not allow my presence to become a distraction from the work that must be done every day to ensure that Fox News and Fox Business continue to lead our industry." Ailes was thanked for his work, without mention of the allegations. He was to continue to advise Murdoch and 21st Century Fox through 2018.[33]

Following Ailes' resignation, Andrea Tantaros claimed in August 2016 that she approached Fox News executives about Ailes' behavior towards her in 2015. She stated that her allegations resulted first in her being demoted, and then in her being taken off the air in April 2016.[34] Tantaros filed a lawsuit against Fox News in August 2016 for sexual harassment, also accusing Bill O'Reilly and Scott Brown.[35][36]

On August 8, 2016, Shelly Ross, writing for The Daily Beast, described her encounter of sexual harassment with Ailes in 1981. She claimed that at a lunch meeting Ailes asked her, "When did you first discover you were sexy?" When Ross explained to Ailes that she found the conversation "very embarrassing," he responded that "the best expression of loyalty comes in the form of a sexual alliance."[37] The next month, 21st Century Fox announced it had settled a lawsuit with Carlson over her allegations of harassment against Ailes.[29] Fox was also reported to have made separate settlements with at least two other women who made complaints about Ailes.[29]

In November 2016, Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly wrote in her book about the details of her sexual abuse allegations against Ailes. According to Kelly, when she first joined Fox News, Ailes would have meetings with her, during which he would make sexual remarks. He also tried to kiss her several times during a closed-door meeting, but she was able to get away and leave the office. After that incident in 2006, Kelly says that Ailes did not sexually harass her again. Then, in 2016, when Gretchen Carlson first made her sexual abuse allegations, Fox pressured Kelly to defend Ailes, which she refused to do.[38]


2011 letter of criticism by rabbis; responses

In January 2011, an open letter printed in the Wall Street Journal on the UN-designated Holocaust Remembrance Day from 400 rabbis, including leaders from various branches of Judaism in the US, called on Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of News Corp, to sanction Fox News commentator Glenn Beck for his use of the Holocaust to "discredit any individual or organization you disagree with."[39] An executive at Fox News rejected the letter, calling it the work of a "George Soros-backed leftwing political organization."[39] Ailes is also said to have once referred to Jewish critics of his as "left-wing rabbis."[40] Also in 2011, Ailes was criticized for referring to executives of the public radio network NPR as "Nazis" for sacking a news analyst, Juan Williams, after Williams had made remarks considered by NPR to be offensive. Ailes apologized to a Jewish group for using the expression, although not to NPR, writing to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL): "“I was of course ad-libbing and should not have chosen that word, but I was angry at the time because of NPR’s willingness to censor Juan Williams for not being liberal enough.... My now considered opinion 'nasty, inflexible bigot' would have worked better.”[41] The ADL accepted the apology through their National Director, Abraham Foxman, who said in a press release: "I welcome Roger Ailes apology, which is as sincere as it is heartfelt. Nazi comparisons of this nature are clearly inappropriate and offensive. While I wish Roger had never invoked that terminology, I appreciate his efforts to immediately reach out and to retract his words before they did any further harm."[42] In a subsequent letter to the Wall Street Journal, Foxman credited both Ailes, and Beck, as "pro-Israel stalwarts."[43]

Personal life

In July 1997, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Ailes was engaged to Elizabeth Tilson (born December 1960), whom he married on February 14, 1998. Formerly a television executive, she is now a homemaker and titular publisher of The Putnam County News and Recorder.[44] They have one son. They currently reside in Garrison, New York, on a hilltop parcel in a home constructed of Adirondack river stone across the Hudson River from West Point Military Academy.[45]

Ailes was a longtime friend of journalist and media personality Barbara Walters.[46]

Ohio University

In October 2007, Ailes gave a sizeable donation to Ohio University for a renovated student newsroom.[47] The new facility will double the size of the university's existing newsroom - last upgraded in the 1960s - and allow more students to participate in the school's WOUB radio station and television programs.

Ailes majored in radio and television while at Ohio University and served two years as manager of the school's radio station.[48] Since 1994 he has funded scholarships for Ohio University students in the school's telecommunications programs.[49]

Ailes has said, "Ohio University ignited my interest in broadcasting, which became my lifetime career. The education I received there gave me the opportunity to take on my first managerial responsibilities and provided early lessons in leadership. I'm happy to contribute to a great university."[47]


Ailes died May 18, 2017,[50][51] in Palm Beach, Florida, after falling and hitting his head at his home the previous week.[52] The Palm Beach County Medical Examiner attributed this to a subdural hematoma, aggravated by hemophilia.[53] His wife, Elizabeth, announced his death in a statement on the Drudge Report: "I am profoundly sad and heartbroken to report that my husband, Roger Ailes, passed away this morning".[54]

In a 2013 book excerpt from Roger Ailes: Off Camera, Ailes spoke about facing death, saying, "Because of my hemophilia, I've been prepared to face death all of my life. When it comes, I'll be fine, calm. I'll miss life, though. Especially my family."[55]



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External links