Roger Ailes

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Roger Ailes
Roger Ailes, June 2013.jpg
Ailes in New York, June 2013
Born Roger Eugene Ailes
(1940-05-15) May 15, 1940 (age 76)
Warren, Ohio, U.S.
Alma mater Ohio University
Occupation Former president of Fox News
Former chair of Fox Television
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Elizabeth Tilson (1998–present)
Children 1

Roger Eugene Ailes (born May 15, 1940) is an American media consultant and television executive.

He is the founder and former Chairman and CEO of Fox News and the Fox Television Stations Group, from which he resigned in July 2016 for sexual harassment. 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. In 2016, he was an adviser to the Donald Trump campaign, where he assisted with debate preparation.[2]

Early life[edit]

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.[3] 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.[4] His father was abusive, and his parents divorced in 1960.[5]:560 Ailes attended Ohio University in Athens, Ohio, where he majored in radio and television and served as the student station manager for WOUB for two years, before graduating with a bachelor's degree in 1962.[6][7]


Early television[edit]

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,[8] 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.[9]

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.[10][page needed] Later, Nixon called on Ailes to serve as his Executive Producer for television. Nixon's successful presidential campaign 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[11][page needed] was later chronicled in The Selling of the President 1968 by Joe McGinniss.[12][page needed]

Political consulting[edit]

In 1984, Ailes worked on the campaign to reelect Ronald Reagan. 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[13] 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'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]

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?"[14]

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 Barbara Bush at the GOP Convention in Houston, Ailes did not work on the unsuccessful 1992 Bush re-election campaign against Bill Clinton.[citation needed]

Days after the 9/11 attacks, Ailes advised President George W. Bush that the American public would be patient as long as they were convinced that Bush was using the harshest measures possible.[15] 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."[16] Ailes refused to release a copy of the memo he sent to Bush.[17]

Ailes's career inspired novelist Jeff Gillenkirk to compose the novel, Pursuit of Darkness, about a ruthless Republican operative who has dominated American politics for nearly 200 years—as a vampire. National Public Radio's Margot Adler called Pursuit of Darkness "a gripping page-turner ... the best of the lot. There are games beyond games in this book—real insights into the political machinations of Washington and the clueless nature of even the best media."[18]


In 1988, Ailes wrote a book with long-time aide Jon Kraushar, called You Are the Message: Secrets of the Master Communicators,[19] in which he discusses some of his philosophies and strategies for successful performance in the public eye.

CEO of Fox News[edit]

On October 7, 1996, Ailes became the founding CEO of Fox News.[20]

Chairman of Fox Television Stations[edit]

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[21] 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.[22]

In October 2012, his contract with the network was renewed for four years, through 2016. If completed, he would 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.[23] In addition to heading Fox News and chairing Fox Television Stations, Ailes also chairs Twentieth Television, MyNetwork TV and Fox Business Network.[23]

Sexual harassment allegations and resignation[edit]

In a book published in 2014, Gabriel Sherman[5] alleged that, in the 1980s, Ailes offered a television producer a raise if she would sleep with him.[24] Fox News denied the allegation and rejected the authenticity of Sherman's book.[24]

On July 6, 2016, former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Ailes. Carlson alleged that she was fired for rebuffing Ailes' advances.[25][26] Ailes—through his attorney, Susan Estrich—denied the charges.[27][28] Three days later, Gabriel Sherman reported accounts from six women (two publicly and four anonymously) who alleged sexual harassment by Ailes.[29] 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."[29]

On July 18, New York magazine reported that an internal review into Carlson's claims had expanded into a broader review of Ailes' stewardship. It also revealed that 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.[30] 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.[31]

On July 21, Ailes resigned from Fox News, receiving $40 million[32] from Fox in an exit agreement. Rupert Murdoch succeeded him as chairman, and as interim CEO until the naming of a permanent replacement.[33][34] In a letter to Murdoch[35] 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.[36]

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.[37]Tantaros filed a lawsuit against Fox News in August 2016 for sexual harassment, also accusing Bill O'Reilly and Scott Brown.[38][39]

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."[40]

On September 6, 2016, 21st Century Fox announced it had settled a lawsuit with Carlson over her allegations of harassment against Ailes; someone briefed on the settlement said it was for $20 million.[32] Fox was also reported to have made separate settlements with at least two other women who made complaints about Ailes.[32]

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 at one meeting 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.[41]


In 1995, NBC hired a law firm to conduct an internal investigation after Roger Ailes allegedly called David Zaslav a "little fucking Jew prick."[42]

In January 2011, 400 rabbis, including leaders from various branches of Judaism in the US, published an open letter in the Wall Street Journal on the UN-designated Holocaust Remembrance Day. They 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."[43] An executive at Fox News rejected the letter, calling it the work of a "George Soros-backed leftwing political organization."[43] Ailes is also said to have once referred to Jewish critics of his as "left-wing rabbis."[44] Also in 2011, Ailes was criticized for referring to executives of the public radio network NPR as "Nazis" for firing a news analyst, Juan Williams, after Williams had made remarks considered by NPR to be offensive. Ailes apologized to a Jewish group, but not to NPR, for using the expression, 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."[45] The ADL welcomed and accepted the apology through their National Director, Abraham Foxman;[46] in a subsequent letter to The Wall Street Journal Foxman said that both Ailes and Beck were "pro-Israel stalwarts."[47]

Personal life[edit]

Ailes married Elizabeth Tilson (born December 1960) on February 14, 1998. Formerly a television executive, she has been a homemaker and titular publisher of The Putnam County News and Recorder.[48] Ailes had been married twice previously, and twice divorced.[49] By his third marriage he has one son. The family resided 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.[50]

Ailes is a longtime friend of journalist and media personality Barbara Walters.[51]

As of July 2016 Roger Ailes lived in Cresskill, New Jersey.[52]

Ohio University[edit]

In October 2007, Ailes gave a sizeable donation to Ohio University for a renovated student newsroom.[53] The new facility was to 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.[54] Since 1994, he has funded scholarships for Ohio University students in the school's telecommunications programs.[55]

Putnam County senior center[edit]

Ailes and his wife Elizabeth, through their charity, ACI Senior Development Corp., promised $500,000 toward the completion of a senior center in Cold Spring, Putnam County, New York. Local opposition to Ailes' participation in the project arose after publication of the sexual harassment accusations against him and in response to a Journal News report about previously undisclosed conditions attached to the proposed gift. Under those conditions, ACI would act as general contractor for the project with no obligation to conduct competitive bidding before awarding construction management and other subcontracts. Further, ACI was excused from any obligation to pay prevailing wages to workers on the project, workers and subcontractors would have no recourse against ACI in case of payment disputes and ACI would deliver its work without warranty.[56][57] After extensive public objection to Ailes' participation at an August 2, 2016, public hearing, the Putnam County Legislature suspended adoption of the proposed charitable donation agreement with ACI.[58] The next day Ailes withdrew the gift.[59]

The Putnam County News and Recorder and Putnam County Courier[edit]

Ailes's wife, Elizabeth Ailes, is the owner and publisher of local New York state newspapers The Putnam County News & Recorder and The Putnam County Courier.[60][61]


  • Roger Ailes: Off Camera, by Zeʼev Chafets, Sentinel, New York, 2013. (ISBN 978-1-59523-108-6)
  • The Loudest Voice In The Room: How The Brilliant, Bombastic Roger Ailes Built Fox News — And Divided A Country, by Gabriel Sherman, Random House, 2014. (ISBN 978-0-8129-9285-4)


  • "Attorney Style: Charisma in a Court Counts." The National Law Journal (New York), July 21, 1986.
  • "The Importance of Being Likeable." Reader's Digest (Pleasantville, New York), May 1988.
  • You Are The Message: Secrets of the Master Communicators. (with Jon Kraushar). Homewood, Ill.: Dow Jones-Irwin. 1988. p. 185. ISBN 978-0-87094-976-0. 
  • You Are The Message: Getting What You Want by Being Who You Are. (with Jon Kraushar). New York, N.Y.: Doubleday. 1989. p. 223. ISBN 978-0-385-26542-3. 
  • "Sam and Diane: Give 'em Time." Advertising Age (New York), August 21, 1989.
  • "How to Make a Good Impression." Reader's Digest (Pleasantville, New York), September 1989.
  • "A Few Kind Words for Presenter Tip O'Neill." Advertising Age (New York), January 8, 1990.
  • "They Told the Truth...Occasionally." Adweek's Marketing Week (New York), January 29, 1990.
  • "How to Make an Audience Love You." Working Woman (New York), November 1990.
  • "Campaign Strategy." Time (New York), May 11, 1992.
  • "Lighten Up! Stuffed Shirts Have Short Careers." Newsweek (New York), May 18, 1992.


  1. ^ Roger Ailes bio. - IMDb Retrieved August 26, 2015.
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  3. ^ Current biography yearbook. H.W. Wilson. 1989. p. 14. 
  4. ^ "Warren High Schools' Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame". Warren City Schools. Archived from the original on September 23, 2007. Retrieved November 15, 2007. 
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  6. ^ "Ohio University to Rename Newsroom for FOX News' Roger Ailes". Associated Press. April 22, 2008. 
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  11. ^ McGinniss – The Selling of the President 1968.
  12. ^ Simon & Schuster – October 6, 1969. ISBN 0-671-27043-5.
  13. ^ "New Polls Show Bush Shaves Dukakis Lead". The New York Times. June 30, 1988. Retrieved November 15, 2007. 
  14. ^ Bogus, Carl T. (March 17, 1997). "The Death of an Honorable Profession". Indiana University Law School. Retrieved July 13, 2009. 
  15. ^ Grove, Lloyd. Roger Ailes-Bob Woodward Smackdown? The Washington Post. November 19, 2002.
  16. ^ Fox chief too cozy with White House? CNN. November 19, 2002.
  17. ^ Colford, Paul D. DIDN'T HELP W, AILES SEZ Fox News boss disputes book. New York Daily News. November 19, 2002.
  18. ^ National Public Radio
  19. ^ You Are the Message: Secrets of the Master Communicators, ISBN 978-0-87094-976-0.
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  24. ^ a b Zelman, Joanna (January 7, 2014). "Shocking New Claims About Fox News Chief". Huffington Post. 
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  27. ^ Erik Wemple (November 14, 2016). "Roger Ailes issues grand denial of sexual harassment charges in Megyn Kelly's new book". Washington Post. 
  28. ^ Paul Farhi (August 4, 2016). "What is feminist hero Susan Estrich doing representing Roger Ailes?". Washington Post. 
  29. ^ a b Sherman, Gabriel (July 9, 2016). "Six More Women Allege That Roger Ailes Sexually Harassed Them". New York. Retrieved July 9, 2016. 
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  32. ^ a b c Grynbaum, Michael M.; Koblin, John (September 6, 2016). "Fox Settles With Gretchen Carlson Over Roger Ailes Sex Harassment Claims". New York Times. Retrieved September 7, 2016. 
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  36. ^ Lucas Shaw. "Rupert Murdoch to Succeed Ailes as Head of Fox News Channel". Bloomberg. Retrieved August 22, 2016. 
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  38. ^ "Ex-Fox News Host Says Scott Brown Put His Hands On Her, Made Sexually Suggestive Comments". CBS News. August 23, 2016. Retrieved August 23, 2016. 
  39. ^ Sutton, Kelsey (August 23, 2016). "Former Fox News host Andrea Tantaros sues for sexual harassment". Politico. Retrieved August 23, 2016. 
  40. ^ Ross, Shelly. "Roger Ailes Sexually Harassed Me. I Thought I Was The First and Last". The Daily Beast. Retrieved August 8, 2016. 
  41. ^ Brittany King (November 16, 2016). "Megyn Kelly's Shocking Memoir: 9 Things We Learned About Roger Ailes' Alleged Sexual Harassment". People Magazine. 
  42. ^ Gabriel Sherman (September 2, 2016). "The Revenge of Roger's Angels". 
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  44. ^ Pinkas, Alon (January 27, 2011). "US rabbis pen letter criticizing Beck's Holocaust usage". Retrieved April 7, 2011. 
  45. ^ Kurtz, Howard (November 17, 2010). "Fox News Chief Blasts NPR 'Nazis'". 
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  47. ^ Foxman, Abraham H. (February 1, 2011). "The Good Rabbis Were Certainly Not Speaking for Us". Letters to the Editor. The Wall Street Journal. 
  48. ^ "Putnam County News and Recorder". February 2, 2011. Retrieved April 7, 2011. 
  49. ^ Sherman, Gabriel (2 September 2016). "The Revenge of Roger's Angels". NY Mag. Retrieved 20 December 2016. 
  50. ^ Gabriel Sherman (January 8, 2014). "Citizen Ailes". New York. 
  51. ^ Fehrman, Craig (January 21, 2011) When Roger Ailes was honest about what he does,
  52. ^ Trotter, J.K. "Fox News Boss Roger Ailes Treats Cops as His Personal Minions", Gawker, September 15, 2014. Accessed July 6, 2016. "He's also made very good friends with the local cops of Cresskill, New Jersey. According to police records obtained by Gawker, the Cresskill Police Department supplies 24/7 security to Ailes' residence there—apparently at no cost to Ailes himself—and otherwise delivers on-demand police services to his family, regardless of whether or not they are in any obvious danger."
  53. ^ "Ohio University Outlook". Retrieved April 7, 2011. 
  54. ^ Alumnus Roger Ailes helps fund newsroom, Ohio University Outlook, October 31, 2007.
  55. ^ "Ailes chips in for alma mater's new newsroom – Giving –". MSNBC. November 1, 2007. Retrieved April 7, 2011. 
  56. ^ Wilson, David McKay (August 3, 2016). "Roger Ailes withdraws $500K senior center donation after outcry". The Journal News. Retrieved August 4, 2016. 
  57. ^ Wilson, David McKay (August 2, 2016). "TAX WATCH: Ailes center shrouded in secrecy". The Journal News. Retrieved August 4, 2016. 
  58. ^ Gross, Eric (August 3, 2016). "Legislators Table Senior Center Lease, Angry Residents Reject Charitable Donation". The Putnam County News and Recorder. Retrieved August 4, 2016. 
  59. ^ McKay Wilson, David. "Roger Ailes withdraws $500k Putnam gift after outcry". lohud. The Journal News. Retrieved August 13, 2016. 
  60. ^ "Our publisher". The Putnam County News & Recorder. Retrieved August 4, 2016. 
  61. ^ "The Putnam County Courier history". Putnam County Courier. Retrieved August 4, 2016. 

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