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Soon-To-Be-Former Fox CEO Roger Ailes Has A Long History Of Bigotry, Sexism, And Homophobia

As the departure of chairman and CEO Roger Ailes from Fox News following multiple allegations of sexual harassment becomes increasingly imminent, Media Matters looks back at his extremism and bigotry over the his decades in politics and journalism. The conservative media titan has reportedly engaged in rampant sexism, racially-charged comments, homophobic and religious slurs, and engagement with conspiracy theories.

  • Ailes’ Sexism And Misogyny

    Ailes’ Attacks On His Media Rivals

    Ailes’ Race-Baiting

    Ailes’ Attacks On Minority Groups

    Conspiracy Theories Pushed By Ailes

    Roger Ailes Reportedly On His Way Out At Fox News

    New York Times: “Roger Ailes’s Tenure As The Head Of Fox News Appears To Be Over.” Citing one of his lawyers, The Times reported that Ailes is in the “advanced stages of discussions that would lead to his departure as chairman” of Fox News:

    Roger Ailes’s tenure as the head of Fox News appears to be over.

    Mr. Ailes and 21st Century Fox, Fox News’s parent company, are in the advanced stages of discussions that would lead to his departure as chairman, Susan Estrich, one of Mr. Ailes’s lawyers, said in an interview on Tuesday.

    The development follows a sexual harassment suit filed July 6 against Mr. Ailes by a former anchor, Gretchen Carlson. The suit prompted 21st Century Fox to conduct an internal review. [The New York Times, 7/19/16]

    Ailes’ Sexism And Misogyny

    Ailes: “Move That Damn Laptop, I Can't See Her Legs!” Roger Ailes’ biographer Gabriel Sherman relayed an Ailes anecdote regarding former Fox News reporter Kiran Chetry in his 2014 book The Loudest Voice in the Room: “Anchor Bob Sellers remembered Ailes once calling the control booth. 'I was doing the weekend show with Kiran Chetry. He called up and said, 'Move that damn laptop, I can't see her legs!'” [The Loudest Voice In The Room, via Media Matters, 1/13/14]

    Ailes: “I Did Not Spend X-Number Of Dollars On A Glass Desk For Her To Wear Pant Suits. Sherman reported that Ailes ”had admiration for [former Fox host Catherine Crier's] legs" and was livid when she appeared on-air wearing pants. [The Loudest Voice in the Room, pg. 238, via Media Matters, 1/13/14]

    Ailes: “I Need The Leg. That's Andrea Tantaros.” Sherman wrote of Ailes' inspiration for the afternoon Fox News program The Five:

    Years later at Fox News, Ailes would talk fondly about his theatrical experience. “Whenever he can, he gets into the conversation that he produced Hot l Baltimore,” a senior Fox executive said.Creating the Fox News afternoon show The Five, Ailes found his inspiration on the stage. “He said, 'I've always wanted to do an ensemble concept,'” a close friend said. “He said, 'I wanted a Falstaff, and that's Bob Beckel. I need a leading man, and it's Eric Bolling. I need a serious lead and that's Dana Perino. I need a court jester and it's Greg [Gutfeld], and I need the leg. That's Andrea Tantaros.” [The Loudest Voice in the Room, pg. 95-96, via Media Matters, 1/13/14]

    Ailes On Gretchen Carlson's 1989 Miss America Win: “It Must Not Have Been A Good Year.” Sherman reported that Ailes “vented constantly about his talent,” remarking that host Andrea Tantaros is “pretty,” but questioning her talent as a political consultant. Sherman also highlighted Ailes’ comments that “it must not have been a good year” for Miss America when then-Fox anchor Carlson won. [The Loudest Voice in the Room, pg. 389, via Media Matters, 1/13/14]

    Producer Said Ailes Offered To Increase Salary For Sex. Sherman reported that while employed by NBC, Ailes offered an interviewee for a producer job $100 a week in increased salary in exchange for sex on demand:

    His approach to some young female staffers became a particular flashpoint. While interviewing Randi Harrison, a twenty-something out-of-work producer who had come in from Florida, Ailes steered the conversation onto uncomfortable terrain. According to Harrison, Ailes looked over at his NBC office couch and said, “I have helped a lot of women get ahead and advance their careers in the broadcast television industry.” They were discussing her salary. Ailes offered $400 a week. Harrison told him it was a lowball figure. Ailes made a counteroffer: “If you agree to have sex with me whenever I want I will add an extra hundred dollars a week.”

    “I guess we'll be in touch,” Harrison said, getting up to leave. Ailes maneuvered around his desk and gave her a hug. “I remember seeing all the windows in his office and wondering, 'Does he do it here?'” she later said. “I was in tears by the time I hit the street.” [The Loudest Voice in the Room, pg 114, via Media Matters, 1/12/14]

    Ailes’ Attacks On His Media Rivals

    Ailes: NPR Executives Have A “Nazi Attitude. They Are The Left Wing Of Nazism.” In a Daily Beast interview with media reporter Howard Kurtz, Ailes called NPR executives “Nazis,” adding “they have a kind of Nazi attitude. They are the left wing of Nazism.” In response to the uproar caused by his attack, Ailes issued an apology letter to the Anti-Defamation League (not NPR) in which he wrote: “I'm writing this just to let you know some background but also to apologize for using 'Nazi' when in my now considered opinion 'nasty, inflexible bigot' would have worked better.” [Media Matters, 11/18/10, Daily Beast, 11/17/10]

    Ailes Allegedly Called Rival Executive “A Little Fucking Jew Prick.” Ailes allegedly called fellow NBC executive and rival David Zaslav “a little fucking Jew prick” during a 1995 dispute over CNBC projections:

    Ailes's conflict with Zaslav deepened when he learned that Zaslav had questioned his projections for CNBC. “The bubble broke in the fall,” [then-NBC CEO Bob] Wright said. At a company dinner one evening that September, Ailes declared war on his colleague. “Let's kill the S.O.B.,” he told loyalists dining with him. Then, in a meeting with Zaslav, Ailes allegedly called him “a little fucking Jew prick.” [The Loudest Voice in the Room, pg 161-162, via Media Matters, 1/12/14]

    Ailes’ Race-Baiting

    During Nixon Campaign, Ailes Reportedly Looked For Pro-Segregationist Participant For Town Hall On Race. According to historian Rick Perlstein, Ailes, who was Richard Nixon’s media consultant, suggested Nixon take a question from a “good, mean, Wallaceite cab-driver. Wouldn't that be great? Some guy to sit there and say, 'Awright, Mac, what about these niggers?'” [Nixonland, p. 331, via Google Books]

    Ailes On 1988 Campaign Strategy Against Dukakis: “The Only Question Is Whether We Depict Willie Horton With A Knife In His Hand Or Without It.” Ailes was credited, along with Lee Atwater, with helping George H.W. Bush come from behind to beat Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis in the 1988 presidential election in part due to their creation of the infamous race-baiting Willie Horton ad. Ailes has been quoted as saying, “The only question is whether we depict Willie Horton with a knife in his hand or without it.” [NY Times, 10/3/88]

    Ailes Agreed With Glenn Beck That Obama Has A “Deep-Seated Hatred For White People.” Former Fox News host Glenn Beck set off a media firestorm in 2009 when he accused President Obama of having a “deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture.” In his book, Gabriel Sherman reported that while Fox News tried to “manage the fallout” from Beck's comments, Ailes nonetheless told executives behind the scenes, “I think he's right”:

    But Beck's show built on Ailes's playbook, making the culture wars personal. He seemed to many to be Fox News's id made visible, saying things -- Obama is a racist, Nazi tactics are progressive tactics -- dredged from the right-wing subconscious. Beck crossed lines that weren't supposed to be crossed, even at Fox, and the presentation -- childlike, angry, often tearful -- was as remarkable as the content. Some at Fox were alarmed by Beck's rhetoric but Ailes was fully on-board. Privately, Ailes said Beck was telling the truth. The day after Beck said on air that the president has a “deep-seated hatred for white people,” Ailes told his executives, “I think he's right.” The only question was how to manage the fallout. It was decided Bill Shine would release a statement. “Glenn Beck expressed a personal opinion which represented his own views, not those of the Fox News Channel,” it read. “And as with all his commentators in the cable news arena, he is given the freedom to express his opinions.” [The Loudest Voice in the Room, pg 334, via Media Matters, 1/12/14]

    Ailes’ Attacks On Minority Groups

    Ailes Reportedly Said That Navy SEALs In Training Should Have “To Personally Kill An Illegal Immigrant Coming Into The Country.” Gabriel Sherman reported in his book that Ailes said to a New York elected official of Navy SEAL trainees: “I would make it a requirement that you would have to personally kill an illegal immigrant coming into the country. They would have to bring home a dead body”:

    Ailes said that if he were president, he would solve the immigration problem by sitting the president of Mexico down and giving him a stern talking-to: “Your country is corrupt. You can now only take thirty percent of what the people earn instead of seventy percent. If you don't do that, I'll send the CIA down there to kill you.” He had been careful to moderate his immigration position in public. “If I'm going to risk my life to run over the fence to get into America, I want to win. I think Fox News will articulate that,” he told The New Republic a few months earlier. But Ailes told [Philipstown, NY supervisor Richard] Shea that as president he would send Navy SEAL trainees to the border as part of a certification program: “I would make it a requirement that you would have to personally kill an illegal immigrant coming into the country. They would have to bring home a dead body.” [The Loudest Voice in the Room, pg 392, via Media Matters, 1/12/14]

    Ailes On Ground Zero Reconstruction: "We Should Fill The Last Ten Floors With Muslims So They Never Do It Again.” During a lunch meeting with Bill Clinton and News Corp. executives, Ailes reportedly said of plans to reconstruct the World Trade Center, “We should fill the last ten floors with Muslims so they never do it again”:

    His private sentiments about the conflict were shocking. About a year after the attacks, Bill Clinton went for lunch at News Corp with Murdoch and his top executives. Murdoch's communications chief, Gary Ginsberg, who was a former lawyer in the Clinton White House and a key Murdoch emissary to powerful Democrats, brokered the meeting. Talk turned to Ground Zero and plans for reconstruction. The executives around the room offered ideas. When it was Ailes's turn, the conversation halted. “Roger said this insane thing,” one person in the room recalled. “He was talking about rebuilding the towers and he said, 'We should fill the last ten floors with Muslims so they never do it again.” [The Loudest Voice in the Room, pg 264-265, via Media Matters, 1/12/14]

    Ailes Told George H.W. Bush Not To Dress “Like A Fucking Faggot.” While employed as a political operative for George H.W. Bush’s 1988 presidential campaign, Ailes told Bush, “You can't wear a short sleeve shirt - you'll look like a fucking faggot," a former Bush advisor told Sherman. [The Fox Effect, p. 32, via Media Matters, 1/13/14]

    Ailes' Helped Issue Attack That “Prey[ed] Upon The Fears Of The Jewish Community.” In 1989, Ailes worked as a consultant to Rudy Giuliani's New York mayoral campaign and placed an ad in a prominent Yiddish newspaper that featured an image of Guiliani's opponent David Dinkins -- who would become New York City's first African-American mayor -- alongside Jesse Jackson. The ad also displayed a photo of Giuliani with then-President George H.W. Bush. The headline read: ''Let the people of New York choose their own destiny." The Washington Post reported at the time that the vice president of the American Jewish Committee called the ad a “legitimate campaign tactic,” but also “troubling” because it “prey[ed] upon the fears of the Jewish community.” [Media Matters, 10/27/09]

    Conspiracy Theories Pushed By Ailes

    Ailes “Was Concerned That Obama Wanted To Create A National Police Force.” In a profile published by New York magazine, Sherman reported that Ailes told Obama aide David Axelrod that he was “concerned that Obama wanted to create a national police force.” [New York magazine, 5/22/11]

    Ailes Believed Climate Change Was A “Conspiracy” By “Foreign Nationals” To Gain Control Of American Resources. From The Loudest Voice in the Room:

    He complained to neighbors that Obama refused to call Muslims “terrorists.” He told them that Obama was using the stimulus as a “political tool” in order to buy his reelection in 2012. Obama pushed green energy, when in fact climate change was a “worldwide conspiracy” spun by “foreign nationals” to gain control of America's resources. [The Loudest Voice in the Room, pg xiv, via Media Matters, 1/12/14]

    Ailes Feared Obama Would Jail Him As A Political Prisoner. Ailes reportedly discussed plans to leave the country following the 2012 elections in case Obama was reelected and arrested him:

    Ailes even told his advisers that if Obama were reelected, he could be prosecuted and jailed, like a political prisoner. During a forty-five-minute meeting at Bill Clinton's foundation in Harlem, Ailes told the former president that he might emigrate to Ireland, and had explored acquiring an Irish passport. [The Loudest Voice in the Room, pg xiv, via Media Matters, 1/12/14]

    Ailes Wanted To Buy Land To Prevent Chinese Investors From Building “A Missile Silo Right Across From West Point.” Gabriel Sherman’s biography of Ailes included a report that he wanted to purchase land near his home in New York state because he feared that ”Chinese investors" would buy it and “set up a missile silo right across from West Point”:

    As the conversation wound down, Ailes told the men that he would spend millions if necessary to keep dangerous elements out of the town. To that end, he was thinking about buying Mystery Point, a 129-acre plot of land with a nineteenth-century brick mansion that overlooks the Hudson, to turn into a corporate retreat for Fox. “That's up for sale,” Ailes said. “I could buy it in a heartbeat. You know why I'm interested?”

    The men stared back at him.

    “I hear a group of Chinese investors are looking. I'm not going to have some Chinese investors set up a missile silo right across from West Point.” [The Loudest Voice in the Room, pg 358, via Media Matters, 1/12/14]

    Ailes Wanted Bombproof Glass To Protect His Office Against “Homosexual Activists.” Ailes was reportedly afraid of ”homosexual activists" attacking his office and wanted bombproof glass as protection:

    According to Dan Cooper, an early Fox executive, Ailes called him into a meeting one day before the launch and declared he wanted bombproof glass windows installed in his executive suite. When he asked why, Ailes told him that after the launch, “homosexual activists are going to be down there every day protesting. ... And who knows what the hell they'd do.” Rudy Nazath, the architect designing the studios, told Cooper that there was no such thing as “bombproof glass” and suggested using polycarbonate glass, the strongest version of which can stop a .357 bullet. Ailes selected the sturdiest grade for his office. The original windows stayed in place as a weather shield and a layer of bulletproof glass was installed behind it, supported with steel. [The Loudest Voice in the Room, pg 201-202, via Media Matters, 1/12/14]