Roger Ailes, the man, who, more than any other, created Fox News and a new kind of politics in America, died this morning at 77. He lost his job last summer as a series of sexual harassment scandals hammered him and his network. Brian Stelter, senior media correspondent for CNN and host of the network’s Reliable Sources, and Hadas Gold, media reporter for POLITICO, joined us today to discuss Ailes’ death, legacy and impact.
“Ailes’ life changed dramatically 10 months ago,” Stelter told us. “Ailes was relatively isolated in recent months.”
After Ailes was forced out of his Fox News chairmanship on sexual harassment charges in July 2016, he was seen to have informally advised President Donald Trump’s presidential campaign during the final months of the general election.
“Talking about Ailes, we have to hold multiple thoughts in our head at the same time,” Stelter said. “He was a television genius who really did change America — whether you think he changed America for the better or the worse depends a lot on your political persuasion. He created this alternate universe for conservatives in the US. Fox News is a virtual public sqaure for the GOP.”
In recent months, Fox News’ cable news dominance has seemed shaky, with the departure of major network stars Megyn Kelly for rival NBC, and Bill O’Reilly after a series of high-profile sexual harassment charges.
“It was said that in Republican politics, if you wanted to become President, you had to go through Fox News,” Gold told us. “If Donald Trump had not made up with Fox News during the campaign, would he still be President? We don’t know.”
Workplace culture at Fox News continues to change after the departures of Ailes and O’Reilly, but both Gold and Stelter said much of the change is quiet and behind the scenes.
“Television has been Fox-ified to some degree,” Stelter said. “Ailes had a different vision for how cable news should look and feel.”