A new biography of Fox News president Roger Ailes details the life and career of the highly influential conservative advocate and innovative cable news chief. “Roger Ailes: Off Camera” (Sentinel HC) by Zev Chafets is an in-depth portrait of Ailes, detailing his political consulting efforts that helped Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush win the White House, and his rise to head of the number one cable news network in the country.
Chafets, whose previous biography was of Rush Limbaugh, had the total cooperation of Ailes himself, allowing him access to family members, friends, and colleagues. Despite his conservative roots, Ailes has won over many on the other side of the political spectrum. Barbara Walters, Rachel Maddow, Jesse Jackson, and even the Kennedys have expressed admiration for him.
Ailes, 72, was born and raised in Warren, Ohio. He suffers from hemophilia and was often hospitalized as a youth. In 1962, Ailes received a bachelor’s degree from Ohio University, Athens, Ohio.
Ailes’ career in television began in Cleveland and Philadelphia, where he worked in numerous roles for KYW-TV, for a then-locally produced talk-variety show, “The Mike Douglas Show.” He spent much of the 1960s through the 1980s as a political consultant, and was credited with helping Ronald Reagan win his second debate against Walter Mondale after Reagan’s aides bungled preparations for the first debate. He also consulted Rudy Giuliani in his first losing run for mayor.
In 1991, Ailes convinced a syndicator to bring Rush Limbaugh from radio to television, and became executive producer of the late-night show, which premiered in 1992 and was eventually discontinued in 1996. In 1993, Ailes became president of the cable channel CNBC and began planning another NBC cable channel, America’s Talking. The new channel debuted on July 4, 1994. Ailes also hosted his own nightly talk show, “Straight Forward.”
After the announcement of Microsoft and NBC’s partnership to create an online and cable news outlet, MSNBC, taking the place of America’s Talking, Ailes left the network in February 1996 and was hired by Rupert Murdoch to create the Fox News Channel for News Corporation. In addition, 89 additional employees of the NBC networks left with Ailes to help with the new channel’s creation for launch, on October 7, 1996.
Chafets gives readers an unprecedented look at the inner workings of Fox News and explores Ailes’ relationships with Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, Megyn Kelly, Neil Cavuto, Chris Wallace, and the other stars he has nurtured. Ailes is widely respected by those who work for him. He personally picks his on-air personalities, most notably for Fox’s newest hit show, “The Five,” which has been a consistent ratings winner since replacing Glenn Beck.
Once called “the most powerful man in America” by Barack Obama, Roger Ailes is a thorn in the side of liberals for challenging the liberal dominated news media and coming out number one. 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.”
“Roger Ailes: Off Camera” is available in bookstores now.