Roger Ailes, architect of conservative TV juggernaut Fox News, is dead at 77 (1 Viewer)


A terrible human being

Roger Ailes, who mastered the art of selling political candidates like Hollywood celebrities and was the architect of conservative-oriented TV news, died May 18 at 77. He was the longtime chairman and chief executive of the Fox News Channel, building it into an politically influential juggernaut until his abrupt ouster last year amid sexual harassment allegations.

Fox News reported the death, citing a statement from his family. No cause was reported.

As chairman and chief executive of the Fox News Channel, Mr. Ailes presided over a cable outlet that combined news from a conservative perspective with the rabble-rousing of right-wing talk radio to produce a singularly influential media machine. He was a skilled showman, a savvy political operator and a proudly plebian counterpoint to the East Coast elite that he believed dominated the news business.

To Republicans and conservatives, he was an essential counterweight, a tough but fair partisan, a middle American from a blue-collar background who gleefully and effectively poked holes in the left-leaning biases of the news media establishment.

The titles of biographies about him — four were published within seven years at a peak in Fox’s popularity during the Obama administration — demonstrated the wrath and resentment he could engender: He was a “Dark Genius,” “The Loudest Voice in the Room,” ruler of a “propaganda machine.”

Mr. Ailes eschewed political labels and preferred to portray himself as a craftsman of the airwaves, more concerned about how to frame a shot or drive a story than about the fate of individual candidates or policies. He told a biographer that his dream for America was that it be allowed to return to its best self, which he put in the Midwest in about 1955.

As founding chief executive of Fox News in 1996, Mr. Ailes defined the channel in opposition to the traditional journalism of CNN and the liberal bent of MSNBC, and he brought Fox from a distant third to clear dominance, riding to the top along the wave of public dismay that arose over President Bill Clinton’s affair with a White House intern.

Mr. Ailes’ reign at Fox ended abruptly in 2016, in the middle of the presidential campaign, after an on-air host at Fox News, Gretchen Carlson, alleged that Mr. Ailes had sabotaged her career when she refused to have sex with him. Following Carlson’s accusations, 25 other women, including Fox’s most prominent female anchor, Megyn Kelly, came forward to say that Ailes had sexually harassed them over his five decades in the TV business.

Fox’s parent company quickly pushed Mr. Ailes to resign his positions, though he said the allegations — which ranged from kissing women against their will to telling women that they had to provide him with sexual favors if they wanted their careers to flourish — were false. Mr. Ailes’ bosses, Lachlan and James Murdoch, the sons of Fox’s longtime owner, Rupert Murdoch, announced the resignation in a statement that emphasized the company’s “commitment to maintaining a work environment based on trust and respect.”

Fox paid Carlson $20 million to settle her harassment claim against Mr. Ailes. Within weeks, Ohio University removed Mr. Ailes’ name from the newsroom it had named after one of its most famous alumni; the university also returned to Mr. Ailes a $500,000 gift he had made to his alma mater. Less than a month after he left Fox, Mr. Ailes reemerged as leader of the prep camp where businessman and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump prepared for his TV debates against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee.

Like Richard M. Nixon, the first presidential candidate Mr. Ailes ever worked with, he seemed driven as much by social and class resentments as by ideology or a lust for power.

He was an employee of Rupert Murdoch, the worldwide media tycoon, but wielded power on his own, too, regularly being courted by Republican presidential candidates.

“At Fox, Ailes has ushered in the era of post-truth politics,” concluded David Brock, a conservative-turned-liberal activist who wrote a book on Mr. Ailes, “The Fox Effect.” “The facts no longer matter, only what is politically expedient, sensationalistic, and designed to confirm the preexisting opinions of a large audience.”

Fox gave intensive coverage to stories that later collapsed under closer inspection: the idea that Barack Obama, the first black U.S. president, was born outside the United States; or that Obama’s health reform initiative would impose death panels to determine which Americans might be refused medical care; or that human behavior played no role in global climate change. Many Democrats dismissed Mr. Ailes’s network as a partisan agitator.

“Fox News often operates as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican party,” Anita Dunn, communications director in the Obama White House, told CNN in 2009.

Critics and admirers alike agreed that Fox was a mirror of Mr. Ailes’s ideas about content and presentation. “Roger Ailes is not on the air, Roger Ailes does not ever show up on camera, and yet everybody who does is a reflection of him,” radio talk host Rush Limbaugh, whose TV show Mr. Ailes produced in the early 1990s, once said.

Mr. Ailes often responded to his critics by saying that they intentionally elided Fox’s straight-ahead news reporting with the frankly conservative views of its commentators. He noted that the network regularly broke stories critical of leading conservatives, including George W. Bush’s arrest as a young man for drunk driving, a story that Fox reported the week before the 2000 election, when Bush won his first term as president.

Mr. Ailes, derided on the left as a Republican kingmaker, was actually more of “an entertainer,” New Yorker writer and Harvard historian Jill Lepore wrote. “He’s also a bogeyman,” an easy target for those who want to believe that the conservative movement was manipulated from above rather than a naturally occurring political phenomenon.

Several academic studies of Fox’s content concluded that the network, as the Project for Excellence in Journalism put it in 2006, “was measurably more one-sided than the other networks, and Fox journalists were more opinionated on the air.” But a study in 2007 by the Center for Media and Public Affairs, a media watchdog nonprofit that calls itself nonpartisan, but which some liberal groups consider conservative in orientation, found that Fox News’s statements about Republican and Democratic presidential candidates were almost exactly evenly divided between positive and negative.

Nevertheless, Mr. Ailes and his approach to broadcasting provoked a longstanding and deep rift within the Murdoch clan over the politics and direction of Fox.

In 2010, Murdoch’s then-son-in-law, Matthew Freud, a London public relations executive who did not work for the family media empire, denounced Mr. Ailes’s leadership of Fox News, saying that “I am by no means alone within the family or the company in being ashamed and sickened by Roger Ailes’s horrendous and sustained disregard of the journalistic standards that News Corporation, its founder and every other global media business aspires to.” But Murdoch stood by his man, giving him larger responsibilities and free rein to shape the hugely successful network.

A passion for show business

Roger Eugene Ailes was born in Warren, Ohio, on May 15, 1940, and was the middle child son of a physically abusive father, who worked as a supervisor at an automobile plant, and a demanding but emotionally withholding mother.

His father, according to a story that biographers called Mr. Ailes’s “Rosebud” moment, once urged young Roger to jump from the top of his bunk bed into his father’s open arms. But as the boy leapt, the father stepped away and Roger landed hard.

“Don’t ever trust anybody,” Robert Ailes told his son.

The young Mr. Ailes suffered from hemophilia and was often picked on and beaten by bullies. He was 9 when his father told him, “The worst thing that can happen to you is you can die. If you’re not afraid of that, you don’t have to be afraid of anything.”

Mr. Ailes traced his passion for show business to his time as an actor in high school theater and to his devotion to his college radio station. In 1962, straight out of Ohio University, Mr. Ailes got a job at “The Mike Douglas Show,” a TV talk show then based in Cleveland and that within a few years became one of the country’s most popular programs. Mr. Ailes moved up quickly, becoming the executive producer. In 1967, Nixon, preparing to run for president, met Mr. Ailes while he was waiting to appear on the Douglas show.

“It’s a shame a man has to use gimmicks like this to get elected,” Nixon told the producer, according to journalist Joe McGinniss’s book, “The Selling of the President 1968,” a landmark account of modern media packaging on the political campaign.

“Television is not a gimmick,” Mr. Ailes replied. Impressed, Nixon told an aide to hire the producer. Mr. Ailes was charged with creating one-hour, live, campaign-sponsored programs called “The Man in the Arena,” featuring the candidate responding to questions from voters.

Nixon, no friend of the TV camera, quickly came to appreciate Mr. Ailes’s attention to the kind of theatrical detail that more traditional political advisers didn’t notice. When Mr. Ailes saw that the set for the campaign program included turquoise curtains as a background, he ordered them replaced with plain wooden panels — a look he said would create “clean, solid, masculine lines.”

Mr. Ailes became a core member of the team that packaged Nixon, applying the tools of Madison Avenue and Hollywood to a presidential campaign for the first time. Mr. Ailes advised Nixon to use more “memorable phrases,” maintain “a fairly constant level of healthy tan,” and stop saying “Let me make one thing very clear” so often.

The young producer believed he could overcome the public’s view of Nixon as cold and distant by showing that he could handle tough situations. “Let’s face it, a lot of people think Nixon is dull,” Mr. Ailes told McGinniss. “They figure other people got footballs for Christmas, Nixon got a briefcase and he loved it. . . . That’s why these shows are important. To make them forget all that.”

Mr. Ailes sensed that the campaign’s emphasis on production values was “the beginning of a whole new concept,” he told McGinniss. “This is the way they’ll be elected forevermore. The next guys up will have to be performers.”

Though the Nixon White House occasionally called upon Mr. Ailes to stage important events, such as the announcement that U.S. troops would begin withdrawing from Vietnam, Mr. Ailes turned his energy toward advising campaigns, even as he kept his hand in the more theatrical end of the media, producing a rock musical on Broadway and a late-night talk show on NBC. In 1975, he ran Television News Inc., a short-lived TV news service funded by conservative brewery owner Joseph Coors Sr. that some of Mr. Ailes’ colleagues would later see as the inspiration for Fox News.

In 1984, he coached President Ronald Reagan after Democratic challenger Walter F. Mondale, the former vice president, had done well in their first debate; Mr. Ailes advised Reagan to respond to Mondale’s inevitable questioning of the president’s advanced age with a Reagan line that would become an iconic moment in TV debate history: “I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”

As time went on, Mr. Ailes became known in his field as “the dark prince of negative advertising,” producing commercials, such as one attacking Massachusetts Gov. Michael S. Dukakis, the Democratic candidate for president in 1988, for giving “weekend furloughs to first-degree murderers.” The spot was credited with helping George H.W. Bush prevail in that election. Bush’s campaign manager, Lee Atwater, said that year that Mr. Ailes “has two speeds: attack and destroy.”

In “You Are the Message,” a book he wrote in 1988 with Jon Kraushar, Mr. Ailes said the most important factor in winning elections was to be the more likeable candidate. In everyday life, too, he said, “the like factor” is pivotal, and he advised readers that in any personal encounter, they had seven seconds to establish that they are likeable.

Building Fox News

In the 1990s, Mr. Ailes moved from political consulting to TV news. He told a reporter in 1994 that he hadn’t stayed in politics “because I wanted conservatives to run the world. Actually, it was the money.”

But TV was something altogether more potent: “This is the most powerful force in the world,” he said. “Politics is nothing compared to this.” (In 2012, the last year for which Fox disclosed Mr. Ailes’ pay, his total compensation was $21 million. Fox News’s profit that year was estimated at $1 billion.)

He produced a TV show for Limbaugh, then in 1994 created a cable talk channel for NBC called America’s Talking, which featured shows called “Pork,” about waste in government, “Bugged!” about things that annoy people, “Am I Nuts?” starring a psychologist, and his own talk program, “Straight Forward.” The channel lasted only two years, but one of its signature programs, “Politics with Chris Matthews,” remained a cable mainstay for decades under the title “Hardball.”

Along the way, NBC chastised Mr. Ailes for his overbearing and insulting approach to coworkers; a network investigation said that Mr. Ailes had “a history of abusive, offensive, and intimidating statements/threats and personal attacks.”

At NBC, Mr. Ailes signed an agreement pledging not to call staffers names. In later years, he showed little compunction about bashing politicians and news people. He told his biographer Zev Chafets that Vice President Biden was “dumb as an ashtray” and that former House speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) was “a prick.”

In 1996, Murdoch — who concluded when he first met Mr. Ailes that “Either this man is crazy or he has the biggest set of balls I’ve ever seen” — asked him to launch a conservative alternative to CNN. But Fox News Channel would not tout itself as conservative because, as Mr. Ailes said, “if you come out and you try to do right-wing news, you’re gonna die. You can’t get away with it.”

Instead, Mr. Ailes proposed to build a “fair and balanced” news operation in which reporting would blend with largely conservative talk show hosts.

Fox News Channel, an outgrowth of Fox TV, which Murdoch built into a fourth broadcast network by buying six TV stations from Metromedia in 1985, started with access to only 17 million cable subscribers; by 2015, it was in 87 million households.

The channel’s first big break came with the Monica Lewinsky scandal, the 1998 story about then-President Bill Clinton’s extramarital affair. Fox’s coverage brought the network a fourfold increase in ratings.

From its blizzard of on-screen alerts to its tabloid-style graphics and unending parade of blonde bombshell newscasters, Fox News changed the face of TV news. The channel wrapped itself in patriotism. Fox added an American flag to its logo immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. By January 2002, Fox had passed CNN in the ratings, a reversal that would persist for more than a decade.

A few days after the 9/11 attacks, Mr. Ailes, who often said that he had left political consulting behind to devote himself to impartial news coverage, sent a memo to President George W. Bush’s political adviser, Karl Rove (later a Fox News commentator), saying that the American people would wait patiently for a response to the attacks, but only if they knew Bush would use the harshest possible measures.

Mr. Ailes said the memo was not meant as political advice, but as a nonpartisan expression of support for the president. “I did not give up my American citizenship to take this job,” he said.

Fox’s popularity and influence in setting the agenda for conservative politicians and voters grew with each election cycle. The network and its viewers started to talk about “Fox Nation,” a like-minded audience that closely followed the channel’s intensive focus on scandals and outrages involving liberal politicians.

By the 2012 campaign, candidates in the Republican primaries were choosing to appear almost exclusively on Fox, racking up more than 600 appearances on Fox News and its sister channel, Fox Business, while making only scant visits to other cable news channels.

Republican candidates repeatedly argued that Fox had a powerful influence on which candidates rose or fell. At the same time, GOP candidates often complained that Fox anchors were overly aggressive in their questioning of Republican hopefuls.

When a Fox News executive asked Mr. Ailes whether he was damaging the GOP by pumping up conflicts among the party’s presidential candidates, he replied that an intra-party battle was a good way to build the next Reagan. “If there’s a fight, we should be the one doing the shooting,” he said, according to journalist Gabriel Sherman’s 2014 book, “The Loudest Voice in the Room.”

Mr. Ailes’ first two marriages, to Marjorie White and Norma Ferrer, ended in divorce. He is survived by his third wife, the former Elizabeth Tilson, the publisher of two weekly newspapers in Putnam County, N.Y., the family’s home, and their son, Zachary. A complete list of survivors was not immediately available.

In a memory box that Mr. Ailes created for Zachary to open after he died, the father left his child a pocket edition of the U.S. Constitution, biographies of Ronald Reagan, articles about Mr. Ailes’ career, $2,000 in cash (“the allowance I owe you,” Mr. Ailes wrote), and a copy of Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War,” inscribed with this advice: “Always stand for what is right. If absolutely forced to fight, then fight with courage and win. Don’t try to win . . . win! Love, Dad.”
burn in hell you fat, racist, sexist piece of shit


Voice of the people
It's fun watching those tolerant liberals react like the scum the are every time a person with conservative beliefs passes away. Stay classy.


A terrible human being
It's fun watching those tolerant liberals react like the scum the are every time a person with conservative beliefs passes away. Stay classy.
so you dont hate Roger Ailes?

are you pro-sexism? pro-racism? do you believe your mom should blow her boss to get a raise?

or are you just dumb?


Reputation: ∞
Staff member
so you dont hate Roger Ailes?

are you pro-sexism? pro-racism? do you believe your mom should blow her boss to get a raise?

or are you just dumb?
I'm guessing a combination of the four.

“First, You Have to Do These Things I Say”: Inside Roger Ailes’s Twisted Game of Mind Control
By Alisyn Camerota
December 13, 2019

During my time at Fox News, Ailes bent reality to fit his own needs. But his racist rants and warped demands—“all you have to do is kill Gretchen”—ultimately allowed the women of Fox to bring him down.

By Hilary B Gayle/Lionsgate.
As the credits rolled at a recent screening of Bombshell, out today, several of us former Fox News Channel staffers were left reeling. Watching ___John Lithgow’__s spot-on performance as Roger Ailes, the Fox chairman and CEO who was ousted amid a sexual harassment investigation, had a PTSD-inducing effect, transporting us back to the years we spent under the control of the all-powerful leader. Even the audience members who had never set foot inside Fox seemed shaken by the scenes of what some women endured in Roger’s office. I know that office. I was summoned there many times. And I can attest to the bizarre, parallel-universe experience of being alone with Roger Ailes. (Full disclosure: I spoke briefly to Bombshell’s director and writer about my time at Fox during their scripting process.)

But what the movie mostly brought back for me was that Roger’s sexual harassment was only the beginning of his manipulation and mind games. Roger Ailes always reminded me of a different omnipotent, fear-inducing wizard, one who maintained control over a kingdom of nervous minions through smoke, mirrors, endless corridors, and devastating demands. I was so struck by Roger’s warped behavior that I began taking contemporaneous notes, as close to verbatim as I could recall, immediately after some of my visits to his inner sanctum. I had planned to turn these notes into a novel, but the following passages never made it into the manuscript. They’ve sat in a notebook, collecting dust in my closet, until now.

I started working at Fox in 1998 as a national correspondent based in Boston. For a couple of years, my job was similar to other reporting jobs I’d had, covering a mix of breaking news, weather events, and human interest stories. In 2000, I wanted a shot at the next step: I wanted to be a news anchor. So I made a pilgrimage to see the one man with the power to answer my plea.

Getting an audience with Roger wasn’t easy. First, I had to run a gauntlet of gatekeepers, starting with a burly guard, who sat watch at a desk across from the elevator bank, behind a set of locked glass doors. I approached and offered a meek wave, hoping I was in the right place. The guard nodded, pressed a button, sounded a buzzer, and voilà, the doors unlocked.

Behind him, another locked glass door, through which sat a long row of offices with nameplates engraved in gold—Roger’s army of lieutenants. To the right, another door, bigger than the rest, no nameplate, and solid wood. It stretched from floor to ceiling. Inside, a young woman leaped up from a computer, blocking me from advancing. “Please wait here.”

I rehearsed my lines: I’d like more opportunity, perhaps a chance to fill in on the anchor desk. I’ve broken stories, gotten exclusives, received awards. I deserve a shot.

“He’s ready for you,” she said. I rose and walked down the corridor, pushing through the final facade to Roger’s big corner office. On one wall, a half dozen TV monitors played cable news stations. Above them, a small monitor projected grainy black and white images—closed-circuit surveillance of the route I’d just traveled.

“Don’t be shy. Step right in,” he instructed. Then he stood up and I blinked. This was not the mighty man depicted on magazine covers. Roger was short, roughly my height in heels. His gait was heavy, unsteady. His power, it became clear, was that of the mental variety. He projected omniscience. He sat down, put his feet on the coffee table, and got straight to reading my mind.

“Look, I’ve had my eye on you,” he said. “You’d like a shot at anchoring, wouldn’t you?”

“Yes, as a matter of fact, I—”

“I thought so,” he interrupted, narrowing his eyes and nodding. He raised a forefinger, circling it at me, drawing a bullseye on my chest. “I think you might just have what it takes. I actually think your personality might work well on our morning show. That’s what you’d like, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is!” This was uncanny!

Roger gave me a penetrating stare, then grinned. “I like this little number you’re wearing,” he said, pausing to let his words hang. “Stand up,” he commanded. “Give me a spin. Let me look at you.”

Surprised, I obeyed.

“You need some bronzer on your legs,” he said, sizing me up. “They’re too white.”

Sometimes it was hard to tell if Roger was joking.

“And, your skirt should be a little shorter.”

At that, I cocked my head. This would not be the only time in Roger’s office when I would have to suppress my fight or flight reflex.

“Listen,” he said, his eyes softening, “we’ve got research showing ratings go up two-tenths of a point for every two inches higher the skirt. If there’s one thing I know, it’s how to program TV. If you’re going to be successful and get what you want, you’ll have to trust me. Can you do that?”

“I think so,” I said.

“Good,” he said. “Let's see if you have what it takes to be a star.” He stood up. “Come back next time and we’ll get to work.”

I was excited to prove I was ready, though I hadn’t realized how much of that proof would have nothing to do with journalism. As I’ve previously reported, the next time I asked for a shot on the anchor desk, Roger replied that we’d have to get to know each other better, to work more closely together, one-on-one. In order to do that, and to avoid arousing jealousy among other anchors, it might be best to meet somewhere off-site, like, say, a hotel. “Do you know what I’m saying?” he asked. “Yes,” I answered. “I think I do know what you’re saying.” In that out-of-body moment, I knew I would never go to that hotel room, and I assumed that meant my dream of becoming an anchor, as well as my reporting job and possibly my career, were over. I retreated to Boston and prayed the call wouldn’t come. I’ve since learned other women did not get away so easily.

By late 2004, Roger had allowed me to fill in on the anchor desk during holidays and for vacation relief, but I wanted something more permanent. Roger told me I’d have to move to New York City. By then I was married and pregnant with twins, which seemed to quell his overt sexual quid pro quos but not his other demands. Over the next few years, Roger began a campaign of mind control, repeatedly telling me that before he’d give me more opportunity, I would have to start thinking the way he wanted.

“You don’t like Sarah Palin,” he told me. “I can tell. When you were talking about her, it was like your entire body was Botoxed.”

“My body?”

“Yeah, it’s like you were frozen.”

“It is freezing in that studio,” I told him.

“Nope. That wasn’t it,” he retorted. “You don’t like her. And the problem is you can’t let the audience know that.”

“It’s not my job to like her or not like her,” I said. “I only have to report on her fairly.”

“I know she’s shrill and says some crazy things, but the viewers like her and they need to think you do too,” he said. “See, you could be an icon for conservative women if you could just understand how they think. Stars aren’t born, they’re made,” he said, shifting toward me and lowering his voice. “And no one knows how to make a star better than me. You would need the right time slot, with the right lead-in, you would need to make appearances on other shows—we would set that up for you. You would need magazine spreads, the right stories planted, I mean placed. You WANT to be a big star and I WANT to turn you into one. But,” he went on, pointing at my chest, “first, you have to do these things I say. You’re not there yet. Come back some other time.”

During some of my visits to his office, Roger’s dialogue seemed cribbed directly from some MGM screenplay, circa 1939. “You ever watch Roy Rogers movies?” he asked once. “No, of course not. You’re too young. Back where I come from, we used to watch them all the time. There was always a cattle stampede. The cattle would be heading toward a cliff. And it was always the job of one poor sonuvabitch to gallop out there and turn the herd just before they went over it.”

Roger chuckled at the memory, then looked out the window over the skyscrapers. “See, I’m the guy trying to turn the herd. I see the direction the country is heading in, and trust me, it ain’t going to be a happy ending. Sure, it would be easier for me to just throw in the towel. I have enough money to last several lifetimes. And some days I want to let ‘em all go off the cliff. I’m too old for this shit. I hear what people say about me. They say I’m dividing the country. But I’m saving the country. I’ve been fighting this battle for a long time.”

Roger stopped, and I could have sworn his voice caught. “This is how I serve my country. I know this sounds melodramatic, but you don’t leave your battle station in the middle of the fight. And I love this country too much to give up on her. Because if we don’t win and they win, that’s the end of life as we know it.”

By then, I’d lost track of who “they” were. The Democrats? Bank robbers? CNN?

“I’m afraid this country’s best days are over,” he said. “And I guess it makes me sad.” The muffled sound of Midtown traffic seeped into the air. As I headed for the door, Roger called after me. “Let’s get to your request next time. I like talking to you. It gets lonely in here.”

I felt compassion for Melancholy Roger, but he was mercurial. I never knew which Roger to expect. And the election of Barack Obama seemed to send his outrage into overdrive.

“I can’t have you blow this!” he barked one afternoon as I crossed his threshold.

“What?” I asked, startled.

“You think rich people are bad.”

“I don’t think rich people are bad,” I said quickly, trying to appease him.

“Yeah, you do,” he said. “I saw your interview yesterday about Obama’s plan to raise taxes. You looked like you agreed with him!” By then I’d learned that Roger often watched Fox with the sound down. He shook his head at me. “You know what poor people really need?”

Government training programs, I thought, then realized that couldn't be the right answer.

“Do you know what poor people need the most?” he asked, even sharper.

“Jobs!” I answered, punching the air to show my conviction.

“No!” he bellowed, bringing his own fist down on his armchair. “They need rich people! Rich people pay the taxes for schools and roads. Rich people create jobs. Rich people give to charity.”

“You know Roger, you don’t have to be rich to be compassionate. Even poor people—”

“Raising taxes doesn’t solve anything!" he interrupted. "Can you ever remember a time, EVER, when the government actually FIXED a problem? They just charge higher and higher taxes and come up with more and more problems. You’re too young, but I remember when this country was great, when earning an honest buck meant something. Come back after you make some of these points on air.”

I was a resistant student and Roger was a conflicted teacher, frustrated at my lack of compliance but impressed with my knack for live television. So he gave me a slot on his morning show franchise, Fox & Friends—“the coveted 6 a.m. Saturday and Sunday slot,” as one of my colleagues joked. Weekend mornings, it turned out, were Roger’s favorite viewing times, and when he didn’t like what he saw, we got an earful—not exactly the “fair and balanced” reporting viewers may have expected. On the weekend when the debate over Obama’s proposed rollbacks of the Bush tax cuts reached a boil, the producers booked five political guests to discuss it, every single one adamantly opposed to Obama’s plan. All agreed that raising taxes would destroy the economy. On air I asked them for evidence, considering history and statistics often proved otherwise. Roger called the control room to chew out the producers. “Roger says you need to make the case for keeping taxes lower,” they told me frantically through my earpiece.

“Why is that my job?” I asked. “If Republican senators can’t make the case, isn’t that their problem?”

“He says you need to say that donations to charity will drop if Obama raises taxes!” Roger terrified his minions.

“I’m happy to say that,” I told them, “if it’s true. Can you bring me some evidence?”

“Stand by! We’re coming back from commercial in 60 seconds!” they said. “Roger needs you to say it right when we come back on the air.”

“Not until you bring me the stats to prove it.”

This sent them scrambling to search the internet for something, anything, that proved Roger’s viewpoint as he called the control room repeatedly. At one point an intern ran into the studio with an 110-page study that found tax cuts did not increase charitable giving. “This is the opposite of what he wants me to say,” I informed the producers. “These facts disprove Roger’s position.”

“We need different facts!” the a producer yelled.

Yes—the birth of Alternative Facts. This was far from the only time I’d watch that dynamic play out.

So, why didn’t I leave? Move on to a job somewhere saner? I tried. I excitedly pursued offers when they came up, only to have Roger squash each one. Once, when he learned that a syndicated show had offered me a hosting slot, he called its executives and threatened to sue them for “stealing his talent.” Once, after Roger found out that a news director at a Fox local station had expressed interest in me, he went ballistic and had him fired. I took to meeting with other network executives outside their offices, sometimes on park benches or street corners. One Saturday I stealthily arrived at an unmarked door in Midtown to audition for a network morning show. The sparse camera crew was sworn to secrecy. That Monday morning, my phone rang. It was Roger. “How did your audition go?” he asked. Message received: Roger had eyes everywhere. At that point, my agent told me not to expect more offers. “Word on the street is that you’re radioactive. No one wants to cross Roger.”

I was trapped, even as Roger’s comments took on more disturbing qualities. I never knew what would set him off on a racist or homophobic rant. “You still think the skinny black guy is cute,” he said one afternoon.

Skinny black guy? I wracked my brain. Then it hit me.

“We have a president who only supports Muslims,” Roger went on. “He hates Jews.” I’d learned by then it was pointless to try to reason with Roger, but I still routinely fell into his trap.

“What do you mean?” I said. “Rahm Emanuel is his chief of staff.”

“Rahm is gay, ok?”

“Where are you getting your information?”

“At best the black guy is a metrosexual. That’s all I’m saying. They have a special bond. He’s not having sex with that amazon.”

I felt a pang of nausea. “You mean the first lady?”

“Yeah, that amazon. They’re not having sex. I can tell you, he won’t visit Israel. Because he can’t stand Jews. He says it in his books, which by the way were written by two different people. He says he hates Jews in there. And he’s not crazy about white people either. When people are protesting in the streets of Iran, he doesn’t support them, he supports Ahmadinejad.”

I wanted to scream but stood there, disassociating, waiting for it to end.

“He said it himself!” he went on. “He doesn’t believe in American exceptionalism. I know what you’re thinking. This isn’t just me being crazy old Roger.”

Bingo. I guess this guy really did read minds.

Roger’s final demand took a darker twist. He’d come up with a new assignment I would have to complete before he could finally grant my wish. “Do you know the key to success?” he asked me one day.

“Hard work,” I guessed.

“No!” he shouted. “The secret to success is having the killer instinct! Do you have the killer instinct?” He leaned across his desk, waiting for a response.

“I guess so.”

“I mean, are you willing to kill for a story?”

“Uh, figuratively speaking, right?”

“The problem is,” Roger started, reclining in his chair and drumming his fingers on the armrest, “what to do with Gretchen. To put you in, we’d have to somehow get rid of Gretchen.”

Gretchen Carlson had become a thorn in his side. He said she was cold as a witch’s tit. Had zero sex appeal. He found her on-air friendliness faux. He likened her laugh to a cackle. He suspected she was litigious. For some reason, he feared she would sue him. I hated when Roger bad-mouthed other anchors, but like so much that made me sick, I learned to stomach it.

“Gretchen has a vacation coming up,” Roger said. “I’d like to put you in for her. See how you do in the ratings. If you beat her, I’ll tear up your contract and pay you five times what you’re making. Would you like that?”

“Sure,” I said. But I was lying. By then, I was plotting my escape.

“I thought so,” he nodded. “Now, all you have to do is kill Gretchen.”

I paused. “In the ratings, right?”

“Let’s start by killing her in the ratings. Then we’ll see what happens.”

It’s interesting; from the outside, the people we believe to be omnipotent seem invincible. But having met a few of them up close, I’ve learned that maintaining their masquerade requires a huge suspension of disbelief from those around them. There’s nothing quite like a finale with a big reveal. Roger always appreciated that TV trope—and he got one. It was Gretchen Carlson, then Megyn Kelly, and many other women harnessing their own power who ultimately pulled back the curtain and brought him down. Once the spell is broken and the truth revealed, wizards can fall surprisingly fast.

Alisyn Camerota is a CNN anchor and author of the 2017 novel Amanda Wakes Up.

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I'll come running to tie your shoes.
God damn your righteous hand
I was talking like two hands knocking, yelling "let me in, let me in, please come out."
RIP Ennio Morricone

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