May 18, 2017

RIP ROGER AILES, AGE 77:  “The death of Roger Ailes takes from us one of the towering figures in American news — just when we needed him most:”

The truth is that — insofar as we encountered Ailes — he was just on fire about the news.

This, in our view, was the key to his astounding success at Fox — along with his ability to spot and inspire great talent, with which Fox was abundantly blessed under his leadership. We understand all the controversies about the populist tone of Fox (his broadsheet and network detractors, though, have plunged down the same path). We read, like everyone else, of his alleged misbehavior with staff (he maintained his innocence). Either way, historians are likely — net, net — to record him far less for any flaws than his achievements.

America could have used Ailes at the helm of a news network right now. It’s not that he understood, and was a friend, of Donald Trump (John Podhoretz has an illuminating discussion of that question at Commentary magazine’s latest podcast). It’s rather that Ailes understood and empathized with the plight of the people who elected Donald Trump president. He understood the scale of Hillary Clinton’s error with her remark about the basket of deplorables. When he was on his game he had few, if any, peers.

In 2013, I recorded a 20-minute podcast with veteran journalist Zev Chafets, who had recently completed a biography of Ailes, which you can listen to here.

Incidentally, over a decade before CNN imploded via jet planes into black holes, an annual New Year’s Eve dumpster fire, and Trump Derangement Syndrome, Ailes certainly had his competitor’s number: