Roger Ailes Booted From Fox on Trump's Coronation Day

Conservatism's nervous breakdown continues apace as yet another kingmaker is revealed to be powerless.

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Yesterday's news. ||| Fox News
Fox News

Roger Stone, wearing perhaps the worst or best sports coat in the history of mankind, spied me at the Republican National Convention's Media Row this morning, gave me a sad shake of the head, and said "Looks like our friend Ailes is not gonna survive."

On a morning when the political world was obsessing over the bravery or duplicity of last night's Ted Cruz speech, with Trump surrogates such as Stone and Florida Gov. Rick Scott fanning out over every available broadcast booth to dutifully trash the Texas senator, the old dirty trickster was anxious about the immediate fate of his fellow Nixon White House alum. And he was right to be: This afternoon, as mentioned in the P.M. Links, 21st Century Fox announced that Fox News founding CEO Roger Ailes had resigned "effective immediately." Just two weeks after former anchor Gretchen Carlson filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the 76-year-old Ailes, prompting other women to come forward and triggering an internal corporate investigation that reportedly turned up at least some wrongdoing, the single most influential figure in modern cable news has been hastily shown the door.

Terms of the settlement were not announced, though numbers have been floated in the tens of millions. Ailes will stay on in a consulting role, though not in the same office building on Avenue of the Americas. Rupert Murdoch, at age 85, will take over as active chairman and CEO of a company that had been stubbornly unable to come up with a plausible succession plan. The company statement was filled with Murdoch-family praise for Ailes, no mention of the harassment investigations, and no statement from Ailes himself.

It's a remarkable and symbolic turn of events for media, conservatism, and the fuzzed out space between politics and television. Donald Trump during his largely hostile takeover of the Republican Party campaigned in part against Fox News, particularly its rising-star anchor Megyn Kelly. This despite the fact that, as Roger Stone reminded me this morning, Ailes and Trump are "old friends." Trump has been a divisive character in the building, on air and off, with hosts such as Sean Hannity and Lou Dobbs reveling in his rise, and others such as Greg Gutfeld and Kennedy taking a more skeptical approach. The fact that Kelly's leaked accusation against Ailes in the internal Fox investigation seems to have sealed his fate lends a Greek-tragedy vibe to the whole proceedings.

It's way premature to predict what this all means, for conservatism, for media, or Fox. But here are some tentative observations:

1) There are no kingmakers left in Republican politics. Not Roger Ailes, not Rupert Murdoch (who was initially against Trump), not the Koch brothers, not Bill Kristol, not Sheldon Adelson, not nobody. There is no ring you absolutely positively must kiss; no power broker with enough influence to wave a magic wand and have his hand-picked candidate ascend to the throne. As a pure process question, that has to be healthy. On the basis of this year's results, well, maybe not so much.

2) There will continue to be growing space for an even more populist conservative broadcast alternative. Like the rest of the conservative coalition, the Fox family has reacted to Trumpism with a mixture of delight and revulsion. It's hard to imagine FNC and Fox Business Network getting more populist in the wake of Ailes' ouster and after the ensuing corporate modernization. If Trump loses in November, he'd be in a terrific position to take his followers to some new media entity with maybe a few peeled-off Fox patriots who will feel less protected in an Ailesless world.

3) Here's hoping Murdoch and the eventual Ailes replacement will come out of this by going more libertarian. I'm more than a bit biased here (and my opinions here are my own, and not of my friends in the building), but the fun energy at Fox belongs to people like Gutfeld, the kids at Red Eye, Kennedy, Kat Timpf, and so on. Back when I was privy to the daily internal ratings, it was astonishing how much the libertarian and libertarian-friendly shows had much more of their audience share composed of people in the targeted 25-to-54 demographic, as opposed to people around the age of, well, Roger Ailes.

I've never met the man, and didn't spend any effort gathering intelligence, but my faraway impression is that certain types of libertarians just smelled wrong to him, even though he was looking at the same numbers as I was, and was certainly more anxious about building such a big business on an audience whose average age is rapidly approaching death.

As in the Republican Party writ large, the young'uns in the audience skew heavily libertarian, and the ones working over in that building have created a fun if still-too-small space for the kind of free-wheeling conversation and real talk that are still rare outside of the website you are reading. There are more than a few senior cable news executives—and not only at Fox, I can tell you—who understand that libertarian-flavored talent and programming is one key to growing younger audiences and injecting more vitality into broadcasting. Here's hoping the creative space over in that building keeps growing.

4) The universe of rumored corporate letches will continue to shrink. For the record, I have never heard anyone volunteer a creepy story about Roger Ailes. However, those rumors are fairly extensive in the broader conservative world.

Yesterday on Sirius XM Insight's StandUp! With Pete Dominick, I talked about the Fox kerfuffle for about a half hour with former Bush speechwriter David Frum, who said he was "not even slightly surprised" by the charges against Ailes. (Frum also said that "Fox has a very particular sexual politics," akin to that of an Italian TV game show, with ugly men surrounded by adoring beauties.) I think Frum's assessment is too harsh, but he had some other insightful comments (such as that the Bush White House considered Fox to be "so extraordinarily useful"), and you can listen to six-plus minutes of the segment here.

The Ailes behavior described by the women who have come forward is Mad Men-type boorishness, some of it even dating back to around that period. Without passing judgment on the accuracy of the accusations, it's a good thing that male bosses no longer behave that way as much, and have a considerably harder time getting away with it.

The coming days and weeks will tell us much about whether there's fire behind the smoke, but as Donald Trump readies for whatever he throws our way tonight, it's kind of amazing to think about: Official conservatism in July 2016 is in some ways unrecognizable compared to what it was as recently as November 2014, when Republicans made historic gains all over the country. Trump has taken a wrecking ball to the institutions of conservatism, revealing along the way that maybe the foundations weren't so hot to begin with.

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  1. 2) There will continue to be growing space for an even more populist conservative broadcast alternative. Like the rest of the conservative coalition, the Fox family has reacted to Trumpism with a mixture of delight and revulsion.

    So just like the rest of America.

  2. Now’s your chance, Welch. There’s a power vacuum. Swoop in and seize the reins.

    1. He’s going to have to scratch Kennedy’s eyes out to gain that perch.

      1. She’ll just talk him to death.

        1. DON’T TALK BAD ABOUT KENNEDY! SHE IS A NATIONAL TREASURE!

      2. As long as it is televised.

    2. Only Gillespie’s leather jacket could fill that size a hole.

      1. These euphemisms…

        1. Nick is uncut!? He is SO cool!!

    3. Shouldn’t this be Kmele’s job?

  3. There are no kingmakers left in Republican politics.

    Voters.

  4. BTW, Matt, you’re the best inside-the-media-analysis guy around. Keep it up.

  5. I really doubt Fox is going to change its formula considering it’s at the top of the pile already.

  6. “3) Here’s hoping Murdoch and the eventual Ailes replacement will come out of this by going more libertarian.”

    Will the ad buyers go for that?
    All else is commentary…

    1. Ad buyers go where there’s an audience. You should be asking if the audience will go for it.

  7. Frum also said that “Fox has a very particular sexual politics,” akin to that of an Italian TV game show, with ugly men surrounded by adoring beauties.

    Are you trying to make me like Fox, Matt?

    1. Ugly men only?

      Maybe they’d make an exception for someone with my Adonis-like physique.

      1. No, that’d be too much competition.

    2. Why do I doubt that any network (except maybe Oprah WInfrey’s) can’t be characterized as “ugly men surrounded by adoring beauties.”

      Based on my very limited exposure to Fox and the other networks, I do think the Fox talent acquisition folks have a keen eye for telegenic women, but c’mon. Those “very particular sexual politics” have been embedded in the entertainment industry for decades, if not centuries.

      1. MSNBC seems to buck that trend in general

        1. Rachel Maddow probably jerks off to Fox. With the help of her dog.

          You’re welcome.

          1. I’m oh so thankful

          2. Are you SugarFree’s mad apprentice?

          3. +1 peanut butter

      2. Those “very particular sexual politics” have been embedded in the entertainment industry for decades, if not centuries.

        Spend a couple nights watching Telemundo or Univision and you very much get a dumpy-middle-aged-man-in-brown-suit surrounded by impossibly beautiful women. This is why I may be retiring to somewhere south of the border.

      3. Why do I doubt that any network (except maybe Oprah WInfrey’s) can’t be characterized as “ugly men surrounded by adoring beauties.”

        Logo?

  8. Reading this article makes me wonder, outside of Fox are there any other Libertarian shows/talent? Fox has Stossel (used to be on ABC of course), Kennedy, Gutfield and occasionally others.

    1. Does The Price is Right count?

    2. On the internet, sure. On TV? I dunno. I really don’t watch any of that crap because it’s crap. I’d like news, not opinions. I suppose there are many if you believe Gary Johnson that everyone’s a Libertarian and they just don’t know it.

    3. No. MSNBC and CNN are totalitarian leftist regimes that don’t tolerate any blaspemy of the Holy Book of Proglotardia.

  9. Rupert Murdoch, at age 85, will take over as active chairman and CEO of a company that had been stubbornly unable to come up with a plausible succession plan.

    Please. In five years Gutfeld is going to be ruling the whole of the Fox Empire with a tiny iron fist.

    1. I think he should have to naked jello wrestle O’Reilly for the title.

      1. Bill O’Reilly is walking down the street. Passing a bookstore window, Bill glances up and notes that the featured title…

        Killing O’Reilly, by Greg Gutfeld

        …has a cover with a photo of O’Reilly, looking at a book in a bookstore window.

        Then the gnome-laugh starts, and all goes dark for Bill O’Reilly.

        1. I can’t explain that.

    2. He needs a dramatic hat.

  10. Those JOWLS!!! Wow, with dewlaps like that I think I could seduce anyone.

    1. *paging Sugarfree, Sugarfree to the courtesy phone*

      1. Why do you hate us?

        1. Because I hate myself?

    2. He looks a bit like fat human Bender.

    3. My question is whether he experiences that level of droopage everywhere. Like when he puts his balls on Megyn Kelly’s desk, do they shrivel up from the cold air, or just spread out like candles on a hot day?

    4. Jowl-slap noise of a successful Ailes-seduction haunts the soul like ‘Nam.

  11. There is no ring you absolutely positively must kiss; no power broker with enough influence to wave a magic wand and have his hand-picked candidate ascend to the throne. As a pure process question, that has to be healthy. On the basis of this year’s results, well, maybe not so much.

    It’s like your doctor telling you he’s never in his life seen anyone whose body could so efficiently produce cancer cells.

  12. So riddle me this, did any of these chicks file a complaint with HR and then attempt the grievance resolution process that all large corporations have? If not then gtfo

    All corporate based public accusations of sexual misconduct are false

    1. All corporate based public accusations of sexual misconduct are false.

      Maybe not.

      Nevertheless, they almost always end up branding the complainant as an attention whore. I wonder how Ms. Kelly’s gonna weather this shit-storm?

      1. Ms. Kelly’s complaint (and its entirely possible that I’ve missed info on this) seems to be that he gave her an awkward/uncomfortable hug years ago.

        Its a shame that Fox won’t fight these complaints (I assume they won’t). I want to see these millionaire women, whose careers have been hugely advanced by Fox, argue damages.

        1. She was clearly asking for it dressing the way she did.

  13. my faraway impression is that certain types of libertarians just smelled wrong to him

    To much like weed and ass sex and not enough like mothballs and bryllcreem.

      1. A little dab of what: weed, ass sex, mothballs or bryllcreem?

  14. “an audience whose average age is rapidly approaching death”

    As opposed to…

    1. Slowly, carefully and gingerly approaching death, of course. Don’t you understand young people at all?

      1. I skip merrily towards death these days. SMOD 2016

        1. Unto the Death gois all Estatis,
          Princis, Prelatis, and Potestatis,
          Baith rich and poor of all degree:?
          Timor Mortis conturbat me.

          -Mr. Rogers

    2. “This is your life, and it’s ending one minute at a time.”

  15. Given that those kingmakers chose candidates primarily to preserve the party power structure instead of to win elections or see after the interests of their base, fuck ’em. They are out of touch with the conservative base and wildly out of touch with the libertarian crowd (there is a lot of crossover between the two).

    Seeing Trump tear it all down is a joy to watch. For all the pants shitting over the things Trump says he won’t be able to do much of it, if any.

  16. “Donald Trump during his largely hostile takeover of the Republican Party campaigned in part against Fox News, particularly its rising-star anchor Megyn Kelly. This despite the fact that, as Roger Stone reminded me this morning, Ailes and Trump are “old friends.”

    I didn’t know who Megyn Kelly was until she got into a spat with Trump. Trump didn’t hurt Megyn Kelly or Fox News any by bringing massive attention to their news network and their rising star.

    If Michelle Fields were half as smart as Megyn Kelly, she would have used the notoriety of going toe to toe with the Trump campaign to bring more attention to herself and Breitbart.

    I had a meeting earlier today with three women who all felt sorry for Meliana Trump. That shouldn’t be possible.

    But if you’re playing for public opinion, yeah, there is such a thing as bad publicity but being ignored is worse. And before you can get bad or good publicity, you have to get people’s attention. If you’re playing for public opinion, there’s no such thing as bad attention–more attention is always better.

    1. If you’re playing for public opinion, there’s no such thing as bad attention–more attention is always better.

      If you’re unknown, bad publicity can help you. If you’re well known, bad publicity can hurt you.

      From “Why Even A Bad Review Can Help Sell A Book”:

      ROMER: A while back, behavioral economist Jonah Berger got curious about whether stories like Kaufman’s were more the exception or the rule. So he did a study – he got sales data from hundreds of books that had been reviewed in the New York Times.

      JONAH BERGER: We found that a negative review for an unknown author increased sales by around 40 percent, so it’s not trivial.

      All the negative press about Obamacare helped encourage people to sign up for it, too.

      On the other hand, if you’re Stephen King or if it’s a safety issue, like a defective car seat or food poisonings at a restaurant, negative publicity will hurt you.

  17. There are no kingmakers left in Republican politics.

    There could be. Power, money, media attention – lots of people can deliver those things. The trust of the public, now, that’s become the rarest coin in the realm.

    1. You don’t need trust to win office.

    2. Maybe Peter Thiel buys the Republican party. The Democrats says it’s dead anyway, so it should be for sale on the cheap.

      1. An out-there gay guy owning the Republican party. A fitting wage for their stupid labors ever since 1998-ish.

      2. The Republican party is practically dead in California so they might have some hope that this will come true throughout the country.

        For example, the ballot choices for the senator to replace Barbara Boxer will be Kamela Harris (D) or Loretta Sanchez (D). I am not making this up for those of you who live in flyover country.

        1. Cali hasn’t come close to reaching peak statist. I’d say they’ll be rivaling the Norks in a couple decades.

  18. 3) Here’s hoping Murdoch and the eventual Ailes replacement will come out of this by going more libertarian

    Meh. Isn’t there at least some possibility of his replacement being LESS libertarian than Ailes? I mean I don’t know much about the old guy. But his current lineup, O’Reilly, Greta, Kelly, and Hannity.. can it get any more statist dooche baggier than that? What’s the new guy going to do, get rid of all of them? What do libertarians have, 30 minutes of non-prime time Stossel and some weird chick who babbles on about nothing too much?

    I don’t look for Fox News to get much less statist in the near future. I don’t see some libertarian Ailes replacement swooping in and making it anymore libertarian.

    1. “But his current lineup, O’Reilly, Greta, Kelly, and Hannity.. can it get any more statist dooche baggier than that? ”

      Hardly.

      “Your children don’t belong to you.” – Melitha Harith Perry

      “The feeling I get when I look at Barack Obama, I get this feeling, this thrill up my leg” – Chris Matthews

      Oh. Yeah, it can.

      1. That’s not more statist than the Fox 4. Just statist in a different way.

    2. O’Reilly got nailed for pestering coworkers with phone-sex during the 976 era. But he survived it. Kinda funny how some things stick and others don’t.

  19. Roger Ailes produced the Mike Douglas Show. My dad was a lighting technician for the Mike Douglas Show. He was sometimes the lighting director because of arguments that erupted on the set ! I was on the Mike Douglas Show as a kid. I don’t remember Roger, nor do I remember my dad ever mentioning him. But then I barely remember what I had for breakfast. My mom had the Irish memory, she would have remembered, but she died a few years back.

    And you’re welcome for this useless information.

    1. I used to watch the Mike Douglas show. I don’t remember any kids.

    2. I was on the show twice. Once when some famous chef made a dessert and called for the kids in the audience to come up on stage to eat it. The other time I was with a group of other kids who were called on stage to sit nearby the Amazing Kreskin while he mind-bent a spoon with his brain.

    3. Did you save the set from the dumpster?

    4. And all involved had an onions on their belt, as was the style at the time.

  20. 5) Given the chance to stand and fight this egregious instance of political correctness gone bonkers, rich and powerful Republican men will slink off into retirement.

  21. Kat Timpf? *Googles*
    Well, hello there, Kat. Don’t get jealous, Kennedy, I’m just reading the menu, I’m not ordering anything.

  22. I’d like Fox to have more Libertarians on the channel, but when they cancelled Judge Napolitano’s show for having that ex-CIA guy on the show, who sells the beans about the futility and stupidity of US foreign policy in the Middle East, I lost hope that they’d do much that as Libertarian in nature.

  23. We can even create playlists of them so it will be very easy to find our videos which we like. We can also download those videos and can watch them offline. Showbox for pc

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