PROVIDENCE, R.I., May 19, 2017 — Roger Ailes won almost every battle in his life, but on Thursday he succumbed to the undefeated Father Time. The 77-year-old, only weeks removed from his perch atop Fox News, died after a fall in his home. Loathed by his enemies, Ailes was a hero to many Americans who had never met the man.
Some liberals gleefully celebrated his downfall and danced on his grave, so let’s put things in a sane perspective. Ailes was never accused of a crime against anyone. He never committed rape or sexual assault. He never drove drunk off of a bridge and left a pregnant woman to drown. He faced allegations that he said inappropriate things to several women, whom he made uncomfortable. Some of them received millions of dollars to ease their pain.
While it does not justify his alleged behavior, ask whether any of those women would be known at all had Ailes not hired them. The streets are littered with talented people who were never given a chance.
Roger Ailes did more than just hire and cultivate brilliantly talented individuals. He gave a voice to millions of Americans who had no voice before Fox News. The half of America that was constantly stomped on by the elite media finally had a man willing to set their voices free.
Until 1993, conservatives had no TV voice. Rush Limbaugh was in the beginning stages of conquering talk radio, but his television show was short-lived. After the 1960 presidential debates propelled John Fitzgerald Kennedy over Richard Nixon, television was everything from a communications standpoint.
For decades, television news was controlled by CBS, NBC and ABC. Despite cultivating an image of neutrality, news anchors and news-show hosts were more liberal than the American public. Over time, the networks got bolder, and Dan Rather and other anchors deliberately falsified news stories to push a liberal agenda. In 1980, Cable News Network was born. CNN was controlled by über-liberal Ted Turner. PBS added more liberalism, though shows like Sesame Street were emphasized to hide biased adult programming.
The print media openly despised conservatives audacious enough to breath air. The New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times spent decades describing liberal politicians as mainstream and conservatives as extreme. The LA Times even announced that letters to the editor disagreeing with the established editorial position on climate change and other issues would be banned.
The left dominated the major media. Then came Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes.
Murdoch provided the money; Ailes provided the iron will and the God-given ability to recognize top talent. Ailes personally hired Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, and other hosts who were conservative, or at least not reflexively liberal.
When al Qaeda brought down the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, Ailes refused to see his network parrot CNN drivel about diversity and global understanding. Fox News was unabashedly pro-American. Anchors wore American lapel pins with pride. Good and evil were clearly delineated, and America was the good guys.
When President George W. Bush made the decision to go to war in Iraq, Fox News again refused to play neutral on the conflict. Saddam Hussein was a monster and a madman, and Fox News ratings skyrocketed when ordinary Iraqis removed his statue. Fox News began a more than 15-year stretch of ratings dominance, with more viewers than CNN and left-wing MSNBC combined.
Ailes understood that conservatives alone were not enough to keep Fox News in business. Neither were liberals who watched the network out of hatred. To build trust, Ailes demanded that ideology take a back seat to professionalism. Where CNN and MSNBC were overrun with liberal opinion posing as news, during the daytime, Fox’s hard news division was to be free of opinion, the news delivered without ideology.
On Fox News, business reports were about business. Stock market reports were about the stock market. Even the original opinion show was fair and balanced. “Hannity and Colmes” gave equal time to liberal Colmes and conservative Hannity. After over a decade together, Colmes retired from the show. Ailes hired an array of liberals. All he demanded was results. Many liberals dispute the notion that Fox News was ever balanced, because anything not automatically liberal is automatically right-wing to them.
Like all people, Ailes can only be judged in totality. He was hated by millions who resented his giving a voice to millions of other people they also hated. He had conflicts with some employees, but was loved by others whom he plucked from obscurity and made rich and famous beyond their wildest dreams. He gave hope to millions of Americans who saw Fox News as the only bulwark between lawless Democrat presidents and their unchecked ambitions.
William Buckley once said that he considered himself the lonely conservative on the mountain yelling “stop” to the liberal onslaught.” Ailes did more than yell. He gave millions of decent, hard-working Americans the courage to fight back against those refusing to let them live their lives in peace. In 2016, while employees of CNN and MSNBC were trying to rig the presidential election for Hillary Clinton, Ailes refused to give her a free pass. The other networks ignored Benghazi and many other Clinton scandals. Fox News made sure voters saw the side of Clinton the rest of the media desperately wanted to hide.
Donald Trump is the president and Sean Hannity is still the marquee on-air Fox News personality. Yet only one man until his death could brag about giving both Trump and Hannity a platform to speak and reach millions of people starving for a conservative message.
To conservatives, Roger Ailes was a national savior: imperfect, but the greatest thing ever to happen to the television news industry. For the sake of this center-right nation, his successor had better appear soon.
Roger Ailes leaves behind his wife Elizabeth, his son Jack, and legions of conservative Republicans who until 1996 did not truly have First Amendment rights. To paraphrase President Ronald Reagan, Ailes won the media cold war without firing a shot.