Me­dia

How Roger Ailes Mar­keted Divi­sion

Newsweek - - News - ME­DIA ZACH SCHONFELD @zzzza­aaac­c­c­chhh

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.

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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.

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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

or pol­i­tics. We were sur­prised when Trump an­nounced his can­di­dacy, but peo­ple who reg­u­larly watched Fox thought: Oh, this guy’s got real opin­ions about pol­i­tics.

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It cer­tainly meant we couldn’t in­ter­view him. I think it freed some peo­ple to talk about him be­cause they were scared of him when he was alive. In gen­eral, it made it eas­ier to re­port on the film, be­cause he was very liti­gious and very ag­gres­sive.

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Yeah. That’s from mul­ti­ple sources. He had a gun per­mit, legally. He had guns in his drawer in the of­fice. He had a full-time se­cu­rity de­tail.

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I was also sur­prised about the puni­tive na­ture of the sex­ual ha­rass­ment. We started do­ing this be­fore #Metoo. I talked to a lawyer about the [nondis­clo­sure agree­ments], and I learned there was a clause in the 21st Cen­tury Fox set­tle­ment that said you can­not ap­ply to the com­pany or its af­fil­i­ates for the rest of your life. 7KHUH LV DQ LQWHUYLHZ LQ WKH ɿOP ZLWK D ZRPDQ ZKR VD\V $LOHV WULHG WR SUHVVXUH KHU LQWR VH[ 6KH VDLG QR DQG KHU FDUHHU ZDV GHVWUR\HG

I think it was rou­tine for him. Ev­ery­thing was trans­ac­tional. We didn’t in­ter­view Gretchen Carl­son or Megyn Kelly for le­gal rea­sons—gretchen signed an Nda—but there is some­thing valu­able to be learned by or­di­nary sto­ries of cru­elty. It’s not some big power play. It’s just ev­ery­day acts of abuse and pet­ti­ness.

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He made money. As long as he was mak­ing money hand over fist, Ru­pert Mur­doch ba­si­cally said, “Don’t look too closely in his books.” There was no over­sight. He ap­pointed his own le­gal coun­sel. He ap­pointed his own HR.

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They had come for­ward to [em­ploy­ment at­tor­ney] Nancy Erika Smith when Gretchen Carl­son filed her suit. They hadn’t gone on cam­era. [We ap­proached them] the same way you ap­proach any­one else: with an open­ness and hon­esty and re­spect. None of the women who went on cam­era talk­ing about Roger ever re­ceived money be­cause of his ha­rass­ment. There was no ob­vi­ous rea­son for them to speak. Again, it was be­fore #Metoo. They just felt strongly enough about it.

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A sense of griev­ance. Be­ing an out­sider. He wasn’t bul­lied at school, but he was a he­mo­phil­iac, and he had a con­tentious re­la­tion­ship with his par­ents. He had a great deal of vul­ner­a­bil­ity grow­ing up. He prob­a­bly over­com­pen­sated for it. There are some turn­ing points in his life. One was at the net­work Amer­ica’s Talk­ing, which be­came MSNBC, when he came into con­flict with ex­ec­u­tives he char­ac­ter­ized as elit­ist lib­eral in­sid­ers. As [pro­ducer] Fe­ly­cia Su­gar­man says in our film, he turned around and said: “I’m gonna fuck them as they’ve never been fucked be­fore.” Cer­tainly, Fox News was born out of a sense of re­venge.

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Roger cer­tainly ginned up the fear that pre-ex­isted. He saw the coun­try’s divi­sion and weaponized it. In terms of ig­no­rance, I think Roger pulled the wool over peo­ple’s eyes. They thought what they were get­ting out of Fox was news, and it wasn’t.… For a cer­tain por­tion of the pop­u­la­tion who re­gard Fox News as their pri­mary news source, that is ul­ti­mately de­bil­i­tat­ing.

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I al­ways had this phrase in my head: “The king is dead, long live the king.” Roger is dead, but here’s a crea­ture come from the ashes.

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POWER HIT­TER 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.”

6(('6 2) '(6758&7,21 At right, Nixon with Ailes in 1968. He later turned his me­dia savvy into an em­pire, says Bloom, that “pulled the wool over peo­ple’s eyes.”

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