“When you’ve got Roger Ailes on your side, you do not lose.”—Rush Limbaugh
Roger Ailes is the quintessential man behind the curtain. He more or less invented modern political consulting and helped Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush win their races for the White House. Then he reinvented himself as a master of cable television, first as the head of CNBC and, since 1996, as the creator and leader of Fox News, the most influential news network in the country.
To liberals, Ailes is an evil genius who helped polarize the country by breaking the mainstream media’s long monopoly on what constitutes news. To conservatives, he’s a champion of free speech and fair reporting whose values and view of America reflect their own. But no one doubts that Ailes has transformed journalism. Barack Obama once called him “the most powerful man in America”— and given that Fox News has changed the way millions understand the world, it may be true.
Yet for all that fame and infamy, very few people know the real person behind the headlines.
Journalist Zev Chafets received unprecedented access to Ailes and his family, friends, and Fox News colleagues. The result is a candid, compelling portrait of a fascinating man. We see Ailes in action at Fox News and hear him reflect on personal matters he has never before discussed publicly. And we discover the heart of his sometimes surprising political beliefs: his profane piety and his unwavering belief in the values of his small-town Ohio boyhood.
Ailes loves to fight, but he is a happy warrior who has somehow managed to charm and befriend many of the people he has defeated in political campaigns and television wars. Barbara Walters, Rachel Maddow, Jesse Jackson, the Kennedy clan— all are unexpected Ailes fans.
Chafets also gives us an unprecedented look at the inner workings of Fox News and explores Ailes’s relationships with Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Megyn Kelly, Neil Cavuto, Chris Wallace, and the other stars he has nurtured.
Ultimately, Ailes is neither villain nor hero but a man full of contradictions and surprises. As Chafets writes, “What will he do next? What stokes his competitive fires and occasional rages? How to reconcile his acts of exceptional loyalty and private generosity (even to rivals) with his impulse to present himself to the world as a ruthless leg breaker? What makes Roger run—and where, if anywhere, is the finish line? As Ailes himself might say: I report, you decide.”
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ZEV CHAFETS is the author of twelve books of fiction, media criticism, and social and political commentary. He is a frequent contributor to the New York Times Magazine and a former columnist for the New York Daily News.
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