Roger Ailes Built The Conservative Infrastructure That Donald Trump Is Exploiting
Published with permission from Media Matters for America.
NY Times: “Roger Ailes’ Tenure As The Head Of Fox News Appears To Be Over.” The New York Timesreported on July 19 that Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes is in the “advanced stages of discussions that would lead to his departure as chairman” of Fox, citing one of Alies’ lawyers:
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 on July 6 against Mr. Ailes by a former anchor, Gretchen Carlson. The suit prompted 21st Century Fox to conduct an internal review and it set off an intense round of speculation in the news media and the television industry about Mr. Ailes’s future at Fox News. [The New York Times, 7/19/16]
CNN: “It’s Official: Trump Is Republican Nominee.” Also on July 19, CNN.com reported that Trump “is the 2016 GOP presidential nominee,” having received “the 1,237 delegates he needed to clinch the nomination.” From the July 19 CNN.com article:
Donald Trump, the billionaire businessman whose outsider campaign has both galvanized millions of voters and divided the Republican Party, is the 2016 GOP presidential nominee.
His son Donald Trump, Jr., cast the votes for the New York delegation that put the billionaire businessman over the top of the 1,237 delegates he needed to clinch the nomination, as any talk of disruptive protest votes or walkouts dissipated. [CNN.com, 7/19/16]
Media Figures Point To Timing Of Events To Note How Fox Led To The Rise Of Trump
NY Times’ Nicholas Kristof: Ailes’ “Fox Created Space That Trump Filled.” New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof wrote that Trump’s and Ailes’ “trajectories are deeply interwoven” and that “Trump is the Republican nominee perhaps in part because Fox News and other prominent right-wing commentators weakened the control of Republican Party bosses.” Kristof added, “Fox created space that Trump filled.” From the July 19 column:
Donald Trump is rising, and Roger Ailes is tumbling — and their trajectories are deeply interwoven.
Ailes’s tenure as head of Fox News appears to be ending, just as the Republican Party he shaped is meeting here in Cleveland for its convention. And it’s a tribute to Ailes’s vision that today’s G.O.P. has been galvanized, prodded and molded by Fox News.
Indeed, Trump is the Republican nominee perhaps in part because Fox News and other prominent right-wing commentators weakened the control of Republican Party bosses. Fox News certainly didn’t create Trump, and he had many disputes with it and especially with Megyn Kelly, but Fox created space that Trump filled. I disagree profoundly with much of Fox News’ reporting, but it’s impossible to deny its importance as a social and political force in America. [The New York Times, 7/19/16]
NY Times’ Ross Douthat: Ailes’ Fox “Embodied The Tensions That Trump Has Exploited” And “Prepare[d] The Way” For Trump. New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, pointing out the “irony” of “Ailes’s Fox News career apparently ending” as “Trump accepts the Republican nomination,” wrote that “Ailes helped build and define a long era in conservative politics” and that his network “embodied the tensions that Trump has exploited.” Douthat added that Fox “did clearly resemble, and prepare the way for, the authoritarian and very New York populism of Donald Trump.” From the July 20 blog post:
In a political year already rich in coincidence, irony and end-of-an-era intimations, having Roger Ailes’s Fox News career apparently ending amid sexual harassment allegations just as Donald Trump accepts the Republican nomination seems almost too much — as though the muse of history has given up on plausibility and is playing everything for shock value.
No less than the late Antonin Scalia and the now-defunct Bush dynasty, Ailes helped build and define a long era in conservative politics. But more than other conservative institutions, his wildly successful network — which came relatively late to the conservative scene, well after the Reagan’s presidency — also embodied the tensions that Trump has exploited in putting that era to the torch.
And then there is the Fox of Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity and their various epigones (plus the flaring comet that was Glenn Beck). Its animating spirit is an aggrieved, “who’s looking out for me?” resentment mixed (in Hannity’s case, especially) with hackish partisanship. And its stars trafficked in a kind of white identity politics long before Trump’s ascent.
A marriage of conservatism and populism is hardly unique to Fox, of course. It’s been part of the right’s DNA since William F. Buckley brought conservative thought down into the grubby world of Republican politics.
But Ailes and his stars gave the populist side of the marriage a distinctive and very New York sort of form — pugilistic and patriotic, more secular than religious and more authoritarian than libertarian. And they exported that package, with its leggy blondes and outer-borough tough guys, to conservative viewers all over the country. Fox’s populist style didn’t look that much like the populism of the Goldwaterites or the religious right. But it did clearly resemble, and prepare the way for, the authoritarian and very New York populism of Donald Trump. [The New York Times, 7/20/16]
Financial Times’ Edward Luce: “It Is Hard To Imagine [Trump’s] Message Having Taken Root Without Mr Ailes’ Groundwork.” Financial Times columnist Edward Luce noted, “On the same day Donald Trump secured the Republican nomination,” Ailes “was being ushered out of his role” at Fox and wrote that “it is hard to imagine [Trump’s] message having taken root without Mr Ailes’ groundwork” as the “wizard behind the curtain to more than two generations of Republican presidential candidates, conservative pundits and intellectuals.” From the July 20 column:
God seems to be toying with American conservatives. On the same day Donald Trump secured the Republican nomination, Roger Ailes, legendary creator of Fox News, was being ushered out of his role.
Mr Trump’s rise may have taken the world by surprise but it is hard to imagine his message having taken root without Mr Ailes’ groundwork.
Felled by sexual harassment allegations from a former Fox anchor, the news channel’s departing creator is no household name. Yet Mr Ailes has played wizard behind the curtain to more than two generations of Republican presidential candidates, conservative pundits and intellectuals. He is the creator and destroyer of ambitions — the Shiva of US conservatism. Without Mr Ailes, Rupert Murdoch would have been a far less potent figure on the US scene. [Financial Times, 7/20/16]
Reason’s Matt Welch: Fox’s “Pocket-Lining Populism” “Built Up Political Expectations That Couldn’t Possibly Be Met, Helping To Create Trump’s Opening.” Reason editor Matt Welch wrote that Ailes reportedly leaving Fox and Trump securing the nomination were two “cataclysmic piece[s] of political news on the right” and explained that Ailes had recognized “that a clever broadcaster could leverage … frustration and build uncommon loyalty through a mix of gleeful populism, rhetorical pugilism, and a leg-chair or three,” which ultimately helped “to create Trump’s opening.” From the July 18 blog post:
And yet we were not talking Donald Trump’s final, decisive rout of his internal opposition. We were talking about today’s other cataclysmic piece of political news on the right: Gabriel Sherman’s report in New York magazine that the Murdoch family has decided to part ways with Fox News titan Roger Ailes in the wake of former anchor Gretchen Carlson’s sexual harassment lawsuit. Sherman has an axe to grind against Fox and Ailes, but his sourcing is usually pretty good. (In a reaction statement to Politico, 21st Century Fox said “This matter is not yet resolved and the review is not concluded.”)
Sometimes the symbolism is too obvious to ignore. Less than 12 months after Donald Trump made the daring, calculated decision to run a campaign not just against the media and the conservative establishment, but against the single most influential and profitable brand in conservative media, both of his main targets suffered life-changing defeats on the first day of the Republican National Convention. Conservatism as we have known it these past 20-plus years will never be the same.
Ailes recognized decades before Trump did that traditional media outlets in print and broadcast condescended to, sneered at, and certainly did not intrinsically understand huge swaths of the country, and that a clever broadcaster could leverage the resulting frustration and build uncommon loyalty through a mix of gleeful populism, rhetorical pugilism, and a leg-chair or three. His approach was both shrewd and instinctual, and it changed the face not just of media but of politics.
The “Entertainment Wing” of the GOP became increasingly indistinguishable from the party’s talent base (indeed, personnel continue to wash back and forth from Capitol Hill to the Avenue of Americas).
But all that pocket-lining populism over time has built up political expectations that couldn’t possibly be met, helping to create Trump’s opening as well as some internal divisions and on-air spats over at Fox. It’s no accident that Trump is reportedly thinking about launching a TV network should the whole politics thing fall short. [Reason, 6/18/16]
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