If there was ever a fictional figure that Hollywood would find fascinating and multidimensional, it would be someone like Roger Ailes. Yet Ailes and his brainchild Fox News, one of his many wildly successful ventures, was broadly vilified by the Hollywood liberal elite.
Ailes is not a black or white figure, and liberals who love to claim they view the world through a sophisticated, nuanced lens, often didn’t apply that standard to Ailes. Whether it was some Founding Fathers holding slaves, the multiple infidelities of Bill Clinton, or Martin Luther King, Jr., cheating on his wife, history is replete with figures who were forces for good in some areas of their public lives (Clinton, for example, worked with Republicans to lift millions of people out of poverty in landmark welfare reform) while in private they committed deep wrongdoings.
Clearly the forces of Light and Dark reside within each of us. No, Hollywood, Dick Cheney isn’t Darth Vader, no Steve Bannon isn’t the Grim Reaper, no President George W. Bush isn’t Satan incarnate. Comedian Jon Stewart would mercilessly beat on Ailes and Fox News (while making a nice profit for himself and Comedy Central), with no regard for balance in his ruthless comedy. He justified this one-sided onslaught because he didn’t see Fox as truly fair and balanced, yet Stewart failed to recognize that Ailes was providing a voice for millions of people underserved by the liberal echo chamber that is the East Coast press corps.
Stewart, like so many of his kind, including Stephen Colbert and, sadly, ladyboss Samantha Bee, today are maintaining their one-sided vitriol–they still don’t believe in bipartisan satire. They live comfortably in their bubbles, blind to the common sense of “Flyover Country” they deride with utter disregard and lack of empathy. That’s part of why I turned down a request to appear on Stewart’s show–I was skeptical he would treat a conservative like me fairly since his show was pre-taped, whereas a show like Bill Maher’s (where I have appeared) is live–that meant better accountability over possible distortions from Stewart.
In fact, Maher called out liberals during the 2016 election, showing how their caricatures of reasonable public servants like Mitt Romney and John McCain helped lead to Donald Trump’s rise. Progressive MSNBC host Chris Matthews, who announced his mixed admiration for Ailes’ work and his debt of gratitude for Ailes launching Matthews’ career, discussed how Ailes, like many people, was able to compartmentalize his misdeeds with ease.
Ailes’ horrific behavior toward women was a relic of eras past. In his book The Meaning of Human Existence, biologist and Harvard professor emeritus Edward Wilson wrote about multi-level selection, the constant struggle between self and social interests. That is the inherent struggle implanted in our specifies that is both eusocial and mammalian. We homo sapiens are a few steps up from bonobos and baboons, yet we still have the existential struggle for self-interest, be it sexual, egotistical, monetary or power-based. This is where the forces of family, culture, faith and civic society evolved to produce pro-social protections for groups historically oppressed in society. That Ailes was promptly removed when his misdeeds became public is a credit to our culture.
Though I never personally met Ailes, Fox undoubtedly influences my work as a TV entrepreneur at Bold seeking to disrupt the political space. I have been privileged to work with some of America’s most talented broadcasters through various segments on Fox News and Fox Business and have never experienced any form of harassment or marginalization. In my professional interactions with them, Fox staffers have all been class acts, and their high caliber reflect well on Ailes’ legacy.
Though we at Bold don’t command the deep pockets of Rupert Murdoch, I am deeply inspired by how Ailes fought against an entrenched media firmament so anathema to a balanced worldview. Bannon is right: in so many ways the establishment liberal media is the opposition party against President Donald Trump. A brand new study from the Harvard’s Shorenstein Center (where I worked closely with staff while earning a master’s in public policy there in 2010) illustrated just how off-balance the current media ecosystem is toward Trump.
Ailes built Fox News to speak for the forgotten man and the forgotten woman. His legacy, including the rise of President Trump, embodies the quintessential human experience.
Carrie Sheffield is the founder of Bold. She is passionate about storytelling to empower and connect others. A founding POLITICO reporter, Carrie contributed on political economy at Forbes and wrote editorials for The Washington Times. After earning a master’s in public policy from Harvard University, she managed credit risk at Goldman Sachs and researched for American Enterprise Institute scholar Edward Conard. She earned a B.A. in communications at Brigham Young University and completed a Fulbright fellowship in Berlin.
Thanks for stepping out of your bubble for 5 minutes and writing a genuine piece.
You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cFRk0FfaQi0