Roger Ailes on What He Most Wanted to Be Remembered For

By Chris Ariens Comment

I’ve interviewed Roger Ailes twice in the last 5 years.

The first time was in November, 2012, a week after Pres. Barack Obama was re-elected, and just after Ailes signed a new 4-year contract with Fox. Three years later, in November, 2015, I sat down with Ailes when Adweek named him Media Visionary. The first sit-down came after a graduation ceremony for that year’s Ailes Apprentices. I began by asking him what his Apprentice program would say about his legacy.

“I don’t care about my legacy. It’s too late. My enemies will create it and they’ll push it. What I care about however, what I want to do is expand… if every company did this, could you imagine what that’d do to minority unemployment and success. Legacy? let me tell you no one would ever believe I did it.”

Why do you think that is?

“It’s the Roger Ailes playbook. They all read each other’s shit and buy it and report it. They don’t do any original reporting. they don’t know who I am or what I do. Or they don’t care to talk about it. Because it’s a lot easier, as you know, to create a cartoon character and reinforce it every time.”

We also asked Ailes why he decided to stay on with Fox News. “Too much pressure on me to leave. Too many people who’d been happy if I left finally pissed me off. If everbody’d shut up I probably would have quietly gone off,” he said.

My best talent is hiring good people around me who can execute. I’m a good television producer. I miss the days of going into a studio and just producing a show. Or I’d love to go off for 8 weeks to produce a special. I miss that part of the business. So, in effect, I’ve failed up in several areas … People write that I hate journalists or I hate the media or that I’m always in a fight with them, or whatever. It’s entirely wrong. I expect more of them. I expect them to rise to the occasion.

How many Roger Ailes’ are there?

Well two of them are dead. Poor old Roone [Arledge] and Don Hewitt. He was a show producer though, one of the great show producers. There are guys out there that could do it. But it’s hard work. You gotta understand and like talent and talent makes themselves hard to like sometimes. So I have a gift of getting past that in most cases.