“Roger cer­tainly ginned up the fear that pre-ex­isted.”

Film­maker Alexis Bloom’s Di­vide and Con­quer re­veals how Roger Ailes saw Amer­ica’s di­vi­sion and weaponized it. And how he ruled Fox News with ev­ery­day acts of abuse

Newsweek International - - PERISCOPE - BY ZACH SCHONFELD

In 1967, a young tele­vi­sion pro­ducer ap­proached Richard Nixon to chat about the value of TV in pol­i­tics. Hav­ing lost a pres­i­den­tial bid to the tele­genic John F. Kennedy seven years ear­lier, Nixon hired him—and won the White House.

That man, Roger Ailes, would even­tu­ally build Fox News into a wildly prof­itable right-wing me­dia em­pire and set the stage for a blovi­at­ing real­ity TV star to land in the White House. But be­hind the scenes, he was a source of ter­ror for some of the net­work’s fe­male em­ploy­ees, al­legedly ha­rass­ing nu­mer­ous staffers—in­clud­ing on-air stars like Gretchen Carl­son and Megyn Kelly—and black­list­ing some who de­clined to sleep with him.

The pat­tern came to light in 2016, when Carl­son filed a law­suit against him. About 10 more women came for­ward to al­lege sex­ual mis­con­duct, and 21st Cen­tury Fox paid out $45 mil­lion in set­tle­ments to the women. “The ca­su­al­ness of his cru­elty was shock­ing,” says film­maker Alexis Bloom, whose new doc­u­men­tary, Di­vide and Con­quer: The Story of Roger Ailes, is be­ing re­leased De­cem­ber 7. The film gives in­sight into Ailes’s lonely early life in Ohio and his rise as a ruth­less po­lit­i­cal con­sul­tant dur­ing the Rea­gan era. With opin­ion-driven cable news in its in­fancy, he sensed an op­por­tu­nity for a net­work that would not just speak to white con­ser­va­tives but also arouse their out­rage and racial re­sent­ment. Yet Di­vide is most fas­ci­nat­ing when it traces Ailes’s down­fall—in­clud­ing on-cam­era in­ter­views with the cri­sis com­mu­ni­ca­tions gu­rus who were sum­moned to his house after he was ousted from Fox News in 2016. Ailes, a life­long he­mo­phil­iac who re­garded the con­di­tion as a time bomb, died last year while the doc­u­men­tary was in progress, but the 24-hour out­rage ma­chine he cre­ated lives on.

In an in­ter­view with Newsweek, Bloom de­scribed what she learned about Ailes’s life, be­hav­ior to­ward women and in­tense para­noia. Why make a film about Ailes now? I think his im­pact on the Amer­i­can land­scape is pro­found, cul­tur­ally and po­lit­i­cally. I had a very acute sense that we were liv­ing in his world. Do you con­sider Ailes to be one of the pri­mary ar­chi­tects of the Trump pres­i­dency? I do. Roger gave Trump a Fox & Friends slot, ev­ery Mon­day be­gin­ning in 2011 [through 2015], where the then-real­ity star opined on pol­i­tics. He was fa­mous from The Ap­pren­tice, but you have to have po­lit­i­cal le­git­i­macy. Roger al­lowed Trump to pivot from be­ing this bom­bas­tic real es­tate guy to be­ing some­one peo­ple took se­ri­ously when he spoke about the econ­omy

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At left, Ailes in 2015. Para­noid and puni­tive, he kept guns in his desk drawer and cre­ated Fox News “out of a sense of re­venge.” POWER HIT­TER

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