Roger Ailes, the hawk who created Fox News, brought down by sexual harassment allegations
Chiara Galbersanini 29 July 2016

The first allegations came a few weeks ago from former Fox News correspondent Gretchen Carlson and were denied by Ailes’ legal team. He himself brushed off the matter, describing the journalist as a rancorous, vindictive employee capable of fabricating a story as revenge for being dismissed. Ailes’ indignation and the answers provided by his legal team were not, however, enough to stop other colleagues from finding the courage to step forward and, in just a few days, present a series of  additional allegations. They reported sexual harassment and intimidation inflicted by Ailes. The scandal broke with the most recent allegations coming from America’s most famous anchorwoman, Megyn Kelly, who spoke out stating that she too had been the victim of a man who could be described as a serial abuser.

According to Kelly, sexual harassment started right at the beginning of her career, as has emerged from reports published by the New York Times. And while for a less-known Carlson the idea of revenge may have appeared plausible, the same can certainly not be said about Megyn Kelly, a journalist at the peak of her success and known to all as the protagonist of an unforgettable clash with Donald Trump during one of the first televised debates between Republican presidential candidates, in which the journalist accused him of machismo, putting him in a difficult position. 

Ailes’ lawyers have denied all allegations stating that the Fox News CEO would never have sexually harassed or threatened his employees. However, following initial uncertainty in regards to his position, Roger Ailes ended up by resigning as confirmed by Rupert Murdoch himself.

In a statement Murdoch thanked Ailes for his work over the past 20 years—without mentioning the sexual harassment scandal—adding that he himself would temporarily replace Ailes so as to guarantee continuity during the months of the election campaign. Ailes, a brilliant spin doctor who initially worked for Nixon, then Reagan and finally Bush Senior, had transformed Fox into a channel very close to the Republicans, almost a reference point for the party. He achieved this using specific communication strategies, based on the logic of antagonism and militancy “against”. As Roger Cohen wrote in the New York Times, describing Trump’s rhetoric and “the end of reality”, “Volume trumps reality, as Roger Ailes understood at Fox News, before a downfall that coincided with the apotheosis of his post-factual world.”

Translated by Francesca Simmons