Childhood & Early Life
Roger Eugene Ailes was born on 15 May 1940 in Warren, Ohio, to Robert Eugene Ailes and Donna Marie. His father was a maintenance foreman at General Motors’ Packard plant whereas his mother was a housewife who made some additional income by embroidering handkerchiefs.
As a child, he was diagnosed with hemophilia, a medical condition wherein body fails to produce blood clots. Due to his condition, he once nearly died when he bit his tongue. He was also frequently hospitalized because of this.
At the age of eight, he was hit by a car and had to learn to walk again.
For his education, he went to Warren city schools and later joined the Ohio University in Athens. He graduated with a degree in broadcasting from there in 1962. While in college, he worked as the student station manager at WOUB Radio for a couple of years.
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In 1961, Roger Ailes started working as a production assistant for locally produced talk-variety show, The Mike Douglas Show. He later became its producer and still a couple of years later, its executive producer.
It was during this time that he met Richard Nixon who came to make an appearance in the show. Nixon was of the view that television was a gimmick; however, Roger Ailes strongly came out in support of the importance of the medium.
Impressed, Nixon hired Ailes as media consultant for his presidential campaign. With the television expertise of the latter, Nixon won the 1968 presidency. This catapulted Ailes into political hotspot.
The campaign was later chronicled in The Selling of the President 1968 by Joe McGinniss. However, Nixon, thought that Ailes took more than required credit for his election and fired him.
In 1969, Roger Ailes established a consulting firm Ailes Communication which advised businesses and politician.
During this time, he also worked as a producer for theatre and television productions. These included Broadway�musical�Mother Earth and the Obie Award-winning�Off Broadway�production�The Hot l Baltimore.
In 1973, he helped launch Television News Inc, a news service funded by conservative beer baron, Joseph Coors, to promote a conservative line. The project failed and ended in 1975.
In 1984, he marked his return to political campaign when he successfully helped President Ronald Reagan in his re-election campaign. The victory strengthened his standing as an effective and combative political consultant.
In 1987-88, along with Lee Atwater, he guided George H. W. Bush in the presidential election to victory. The campaign included the controversial ‘Wille Horton ad’ targeted at opponent Michael Dukakis.
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In 1988, his book, You Are the Message: Secrets of the Master Communicators, which he co-authored along with Jon Kraushar was published. The book was a memoir of his work as a political advisor and at the same time was also a self-help book.
In 1991, he announced his exit from political campaign after his failed campaign effort for Richard Thornburgh for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania.
He returned to television and in 1993 joined NBC and became the president of failing CNBC channel turning it into a profitable business.
Later, he created ‘America's Talking’ channel which afterwards came to be known as MSNBC. However, when the channel was taken away from him, he quit the network in 1996.
A few months before, an internal investigation was conducted by a law firm hired by NBC after the then–NBC executive David Zaslav reported that Ailes called him a ‘little fucking Jew prick’.
Rupert Murdoch, the head of News Corporation Ltd. hired him to create a channel that would appeal to the conservative audience. The result was Fox News Channel which was launched on October 7, 1996, with Roger Ailes as its founding CEO.
Ailes soon turned Fox News into an influential news outlet and he, himself, became one of its most significant executives.
Despite its slogan of ‘fair and balanced’ news coverage, the channel was frequently criticized for its right-wing leanings.
Fox’s influence reached its zenith during the 2000 presidential election of George W Bush when it became the first to name Bush the winner of the Florida ballot. The other news channels followed.
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In 2005, when Lachlan Murdoch resigned, Roger Ailes assumed the position of Chairman of the Fox Television Stations. He also served as chairman of 20th Television, MyNetworkTV and Fox Business Network.
On July 6, 2016, a sexual harassment lawsuit was filed against Ailes by former Fox News anchor, Gretchen Carlson. She accused him of firing her since she rebuffed his advances. In the following days, more women came forward with similar accounts of Ailes behaviour. Even Megyn Kelly, Fox’s biggest female star, refused to back Ailes and disclosed that she too had suffered similar harassment.
Though he denied the charges against him, he eventually quit Fox News on July 21st 2016.
He carried on working for Murdoch as a consultant and even became an advisor to Donald Trump in his presidential campaign in 2016 wherein he prepared Trump for debates.
As media consultant, he played a crucial role in the election of four American presidents including Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush. He also advised Donald Trump in his election campaign in 2016.
During his stint with CNBC, he boosted its rating, doubled the value and tripled the revenues.
He also turned Fox News channel into the most profitable business of Murdoch Empire.
Family & Personal Life
Roger Ailes was married thrice. His first two marriage with Marjorie White (1960-1977) and Norma Ferrer (1981-1995) ended in divorce. He married his third wife Elizabeth Tilson in 1998 and has a son, Zachary, with her.
He died on 18 May 2017 after he fell down and hit his head at his residence in Florida a week before. His death was attributed to a subdural hematoma, aggravated by hemophilia.