Spieckerman Speaks

Thursday, May 18, 2017

My Requiem to Roger Ailes

Roger Ailes was, like the first president he helped elect in 1968, Richard Nixon, both brilliant and bedeviled. I'd known Roger since we both worked on the ill-fated 1980 presidential campaign of former Texas Gov. John Connally (the one shot alongside JFK) who later served as Nixon's treasury secretary. I was a kid; Ailes, an icon. Roger and I kept in touch and I visited him at Fox News Channel over the years; he was directly responsible for my being added to the commentator mix at FNC and Fox Business Network.
Roger reshaped politics as Nixon's and then many other Republican candidates' media guru; he recast business news as founding head of CNBC (then toppled it with his FBN); he revolutionized journalism by creating Fox News and leading it to dominance. Something inconceivable to all but perhaps Roger and Rupert Murdoch when the fledgling network premiered in '96.
What hit me this morning is that Roger's network made Donald Trump's election possible - long before providing Trump with one of his most important television platforms. It was Fox News that awakened "middle America," so long forced to consume most of their news from left-leaning outlets. FNC showed conservative and center-right voters that they not only had legions of cohorts but - as shown by the stratospheric ascent of FNC – could be a transformative force. That this network, which had been lampooned from launch, became a media colossus while reflecting their values and capturing their sensibilities demonstrated that outsiders really could “trump” the establishment and entrenched incumbents.
What Roger is alleged to have done to numerous women is evil. It's tragic that this revolting truth coexisted with the commendable. Roger advanced a multitude of great careers. His Ailes Apprentice program at Fox News enabled many young people of color to jump-start their journalistic vocation with an entity at the apex of the industry. Roger was a true American success story, a hemophiliac who rose from humble beginnings; a patriot, a visionary and inspiring leader, often a man of generosity.
Many might say it's sad Ailes didn't pass before his egregious transgressions were revealed; I believe the opposite. Roger's public shaming and career collapse left an indelible mark on American business and culture which will inure to the benefit of countless women to come. Ironically, that legacy will be as - or perhaps even more - consequential than Fox News.


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