Roger Ailes

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Roger Ailes
BornRoger Eugene Ailes
(1940-05-15) May 15, 1940 (age 73)
Warren, Ohio, United States
OccupationPresident of Fox News Channel
Chairman Fox Television Stations Group
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Roger Ailes
BornRoger Eugene Ailes
(1940-05-15) May 15, 1940 (age 73)
Warren, Ohio, United States
OccupationPresident of Fox News Channel
Chairman Fox Television Stations Group

Roger Eugene Ailes (born May 15, 1940) is president of Fox News Channel, and chairman of the Fox Television Stations Group. Ailes was a media consultant for Republican presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush and for Rudy Giuliani’s first mayoral campaign (1989).

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.[1] Ailes suffers from hemophilia and was often hospitalized as a youth. Ailes attended the Warren city schools. Later, he was inducted into Warren High School's Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame.[2] In 1962, Ailes received a bachelor's degree from Ohio University, Athens, Ohio.[3]


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,[4] for a then-locally produced talk-variety show, The Mike Douglas Show. He later became Executive Producer for the show, which was syndicated nationally. In 1968, he was nominated for a Daytime Emmy Awards for it.[5] In 1967, he 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. Later, Nixon called on Ailes to serve as his Executive Producer of TV. Nixon's election victory was only Ailes's first venture into the political spotlight. His pioneering work[citation needed] in framing national campaign issues[citation needed] and making the stiff Nixon more likeable and accessible to voters[citation needed] was chronicled in The Selling of the President 1968 by Joe McGinniss.

Other ventures[edit]

In 1969, Ailes founded Ailes Communications, Inc., in New York and consulted for various businesses and politicians, including WCBS-TV. He also tried his hand in theater production with the Broadway musical Mother Earth (1972) and the Off-Broadway hit play The Hot l Baltimore (1973–76). He was executive producer for the television special The Last Frontier (1974); and he produced and directed a television special, Fellini: Wizards, Clowns and Honest Liars.

Political consulting[edit]

Ailes served as a political consultant for many Republican candidates during the 1960s, '70s, and '80s. His first such job was as media advisor for the Nixon campaign in 1968. He returned to presidential campaigning as a consultant to Ronald Reagan in the latter stages of the 1984 campaign. He is widely credited with having helped coach Reagan to victory in the second presidential debate with Walter Mondale, after aides Richard Darman and David Stockman bungled preparations for the disastrous first debate.

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[6] 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.

Ailes denies producing the so-called Willie Horton ad, which showed the face of the convicted rapist furloughed by Michael Dukakis. The ad was sponsored and funded by the independent-expenditure group National Security Political Action Committee (NSPAC), but the Democrats later charged the Bush campaign with illegally coordinating the ad with the NSPAC. The Federal Election Commission (FEC) investigated the charge, but deadlocked on a 3-3 vote, essentially clearing Ailes and the campaign of any legal wrongdoing.[7] Reliable sources credit Floyd Brown with creating the ad.[8][9][10]

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?[11]

One who[who?] worked together with him on a U.S. Senate campaign in California in 1976 has written: "It was a tremendous learning experience, and great fun to work with Roger, who is a very sincere, extremely intelligent, witty and fun-loving person -- and an absolute master campaign strategist."[12]

Ailes's last campaign was the unsuccessful effort of Richard Thornburgh for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania in November 1991. He announced his withdrawal from political consulting in 1992. Though he aided with behind-the-scenes speechwriting and coaching for both President and Mrs. Bush at the GOP Convention in Houston, Ailes did not work on the unsuccessful 1992 Bush campaign against Bill Clinton.

Ailes's TV ads for the 1988 Bush campaign were extensively examined in the award-winning documentary film Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story.

Days after the 9/11 attacks, Ailes gave President George W. Bush political advice indicating that the American public would be patient as long as they were convinced that Bush was using the harshest measures possible.[13] The correspondence was revealed in Bob Woodward's book Bush At War. 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."[14] Ailes refused to release a copy of the memo he sent to Bush.[15]

Later television[edit]

In 1984, Ailes helped produce a television special, Television and the Presidency.[16] This documentary was later expanded into a multi-part series on Fox News Channel, first aired in 2000.

In 1988, Ailes wrote a book with long-time aide Jon Kraushar, called You Are the Message: Secrets of the Master Communicators,[17] in which he discusses some of his philosophies and strategies for successful performance in the public eye.

In 1991, Ailes convinced a syndicator to bring Rush Limbaugh from radio to television and became executive producer of the late-night show.[18] The show debuted in 1992 and was eventually discontinued in 1996. The pilot and series were produced with Richard Mincer, Maria Bianco (Dorfner), Kathleen Gleason and Nick Africano out of Unitel Studios on W. 57th Street in New York City.

In 1993, Ailes became president of the cable channel CNBC and began planning another NBC cable channel, America's Talking. The new channel debuted on July 4, 1994. Ailes also hosted his own nightly show, Straight Forward, an hour-long talk show.[19]

Fox News[edit]

After the announcement of Microsoft and NBC's partnership to create an online and cable news outlet, MSNBC, taking the place of America's Talking, Ailes left the network in February 1996 and was hired by Rupert Murdoch to create Fox News Channel for News Corporation. In addition, eighty-nine additional employees of the NBC networks left with Ailes to help with the new channel's creation for launch, on October 7, 1996.

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[20] 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.

He signed a new deal in October 2012 that keeps him at the network for another four years through until 2016, at which time he will have served as head of Fox News Channel for twenty years. Salary terms were not revealed although his earnings for the 2012 fiscal year were a reported $21 million inclusive of bonuses. In addition to heading Fox News and chairing Fox Television Stations, Ailes also chairs Twentieth Television, MyNetwork TV and Fox Business Network.[21]


Following the announcement of the UPN/WB merger creating The CW network, News Corporation announced the creation of MyNetworkTV to provide an alternative network for its O&O UPN affiliates on February 22, 2006. Ailes only learned of UPN's demise 10 minutes before the official announcement.[20] The network officially debuted on September 5, 2006, with a slate of telenovelas like Watch Over Me and Wicked Wicked Games, which received low ratings. The soap operas were phased out after a few months, it now airs programming targeted to 13-to-45-year-old males.[citation needed]

Newspaper ownership[edit]

In the spring of 2008 Ailes bought a local newspaper in Cold Spring, New York, the town in which he owns a weekend/summer mansion. Upon purchase, he appointed his wife, Elizabeth Tilson, as the editor-in-chief. The newspaper, the Putnam County News and Recorder, has a circulation of approximately 4,000.[22] Ailes also purchased the Putnam County Courier in April 2009.[23]


Holocaust insensitivity allegation[edit]

In January 2011, an open letter printed in the Wall Street Journal on the UN-designated Holocaust Remembrance Day from 400 rabbis, including the leaders of all main branches of Judaism in the US, called on Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of News Corp, to sanction Fox News commentator Glenn Beck due to his use of the Holocaust to "discredit any individual or organization you disagree with." Ailes called executives of the public radio network NPR "Nazis" for sacking a news analyst, Juan Williams, after Williams had made remarks considered by NPR to be offensive. Ailes apologised to a Jewish group for using the expression, although not to NPR. An executive at Fox News rejected the letter, calling it the work of a "George Soros-backed leftwing political organisation."[24] Ailes has also dismissed Jewish critics, referring to them as "left-wing rabbis.".[25] Ailes quickly apologized to the Anti-Defamation League (though not to NPR), he wrote: "“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.”.[26] The ADL accepted the apology through their National Director, Abraham Foxman, who said in a Press Release [27] "I welcome Roger Ailes apology, which is as sincere as it is heartfelt. Nazi comparisons of this nature are clearly inappropriate and offensive. While I wish Roger had never invoked that terminology, I appreciate his efforts to immediately reach out and to retract his words before they did any further harm." In a subsequent letter to the Wall Street Journal, Foxman called Ailes and Beck "pro-Israel stalwarts."[28]

Obstruction of justice allegation[edit]

In February 2011, The New York Times reported that documents filed in a lawsuit state that Ailes urged former employee and current publisher Judith Regan to lie to federal investigators regarding her affair with New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik, nominated for Department of Homeland Security Secretary. According to the documents, Regan alleges that Ailes wanted her to lie to protect Rudolph Giuliani, who was in the early stages of a presidential campaign. The court documents also state that Regan taped one of the conversations between Ailes and herself, where Ailes discusses her relationship with Kerik.[29]

Personal life[edit]

Ailes left his first wife, who was his college sweetheart. Ailes met his second wife, Norma Ferrer in 1976 while working on a campaign in Miami, Florida. She moved to New York City and they were married in 1980. Norma, who had been a television producer with Mission Media Ministries, became his right hand at Ailes Communications, working on most of the political campaigns that the company handled in the 1980s. Sharing residences in both NYC and Croton-on-Hudson, NY,[30] the two raised one child together, a daughter from Norma Ailes' earlier relationship, Shawn C. Ailes Visco (born July 1968), now a television producer. The two divorced in 1995.[31]

In July 1997, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Ailes was engaged to Elizabeth Tilson (born December 1960), whom he married on February 14, 1998. Formerly a television executive, she is now a homemaker and titular publisher of The Putnam County News and Recorder.[32] They have one son named Zachary Ailes. They currently live in Garrison, New York.

Ailes is a longtime friend of journalist and media personality Barbara Walters.[33]

Ohio University[edit]

In October 2007, Ailes gave a sizeable donation to Ohio University for a renovated student newsroom.[34] The new facility will 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.[35] Since 1994 he has funded scholarships for Ohio University students in the school's telecommunications programs.[36]

Ailes said, "Ohio University ignited my interest in broadcasting, which became my lifetime career. The education I received there gave me the opportunity to take on my first managerial responsibilities and provided early lessons in leadership. I'm happy to contribute to a great university."[34]




  1. ^ Current biography yearbook. H.W. Wilson. 1989. p. 14. 
  2. ^ "Warren High Schools' Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame". Warren City Schools. Archived from the original on 2007-09-23. Retrieved 2007-11-15. 
  3. ^ "Roger Ailes's BA". museum of Broadcast communications. Retrieved 2009-10-23. 
  4. ^ "Roger Ailes's First Job". museum of Broadcast communications. Retrieved 2009-10-23. 
  5. ^ Roger Ailes - Awards, Nominated: Outstanding Achievement in Daytime Programming - Programs for: "The Mike Douglas Show"
  6. ^ "New Polls Show Bush Shaves Dukakis Lead". The New York Times. 1988-06-30. Retrieved 2007-11-15. 
  7. ^ "Independent Ads". Retrieved 2011-04-07. 
  8. ^ Scherer, Michael (22 April 2008). "A Willie Horton Hit on Obama?". Time. 
  9. ^ "Will McCain denounce Floyd Brown? - Joe Conason". 2008-04-25. Retrieved 2011-04-07. 
  10. ^ "Operative behind Willie Horton ad throws Joe Miller a line: 2008 Election - DC Bureau | Alaska news at". Retrieved 2011-04-07. 
  11. ^ Bogus, Carl T. (1997-03-17). "The Death of an Honorable Profession". Indiana University Law School. Retrieved 2009-07-13. 
  12. ^ John Gingles, "My Time in Politics", from A Personal Memoir, Washington, D.C., 2007.
  13. ^ Grove, Lloyd. Roger Ailes-Bob Woodward Smackdown? The Washington Post. 19 November 2002.
  14. ^ Fox chief too cozy with White House? CNN. 19 November 2002.
  15. ^ Colford, Paul D. DIDN'T HELP W, AILES SEZ Fox News boss disputes book. Daily News. 19 November 2002.
  16. ^ Television and the Presidency at the Internet Movie Database
  17. ^ You Are the Message: Secrets of the Master Communicators, ISBN 978-0-87094-976-0
  18. ^ The Rush Limbaugh Show at the Internet Movie Database
  19. ^ Straight Forward With Roger Ailes,
  20. ^ a b Angwin, Julia (October 3, 2006). "After Riding High With Fox News, Murdoch Aide Has Harder Slog". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2007-11-15. 
  21. ^ "Roger Ailes gets four more years at Fox News". Big News Network. Retrieved 2012-10-20. 
  22. ^ "Roger Ailes". Retrieved 2011-04-07. 
  23. ^ Fox exec revives Putnam County Courier[dead link]
  24. ^ Pilkington, Ed (27 January 2011). "Rabbis warn Rupert Murdoch: Fox News and Glenn Beck 'using' Holocaust". The Guardian (London). 
  25. ^ Pinkas, Alon (2011-01-27). "US rabbis pen letter criticizing Beck's Holocaust usage". Retrieved 2011-04-07. 
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^ Buettner, Russ (24 February 2011). "Fox News Chief, Roger Ailes, Urged Employee to Lie, Records Show". NYTimes. 
  30. ^ "Mission Media: Delaware Valley - Strategy Team". Retrieved 2011-04-07. 
  31. ^ "". Retrieved 2011-04-07. 
  32. ^ "". 2011-02-02. Retrieved 2011-04-07. 
  33. ^ Fehrman, Craig (2011-01-21) When Roger Ailes was honest about what he does,
  34. ^ a b "Ohio University Outlook". Retrieved 2011-04-07. 
  35. ^ Alumnus Roger Ailes helps fund newsroom, Ohio University Outlook, 2007-10-31
  36. ^ Updated 110 minutes ago 4/6/2011 10:35:22 PM +00:00 (2007-11-01). "Ailes chips in for alma mater's new newsroom - Giving -". MSNBC. Retrieved 2011-04-07. 

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