Roger Ailes And His Fox News Empire
Roger Ailes was a brilliant and fearless television executive who built from scratch the most powerful conservative news brand in television. Ailes died Thursday at the age of 77, and less than year after he resigned as Fox News CEO in the wake of a sexual harassment scandal.
No one would have bet on the success of the Fox News Channel when it was launched in 1996. CNN had dominated the cable news world, and Microsoft and NBC News had just teamed up to create MSNBC. But Ailes had a vision and a mission to create a voice for conservative Americans that he felt would be successful in tapping into the “silent majority.”
I was Fox News President in 1995, having been hired by Rupert Murdoch to create a “proper news organization.” Murdoch hated CNN and its founder, Ted Turner. My challenge at that time was that no other senior executive at Fox was interested in airing network news programming or creating a news channel. The Fox owned local stations, which aired their own very profitable newscasts in the morning and at night, did not want to turn programming time over to the network. Meanwhile, a cable news channel would be extremely expensive to build, and it would be very costly to obtain cable clearances.
After months of frustration I put together a news service and produced some network news specials using a core news staff that I had hired. Later, I put together a plan for a Sunday morning public affairs program I titled, “Fox News Sunday.” I identified several anchors, many of whom Murdoch rejected as too liberal. We finally agreed to hire the late Tony Snow, a conservative columnist and former White House spokesperson for President George H. W. […]