Roger Ailes, who made Fox News into an empire, has died at age 77. He was removed from Fox News last year in the wake of sexual harassment allegations. His death comes at a time of great turmoil for conservative journalism.
Roger Ailes’s death comes at a time of turmoil in conservative journalism — turmoil caused in no small part by Ailes’s own success in making Fox News into a media-political juggernaut.
Charles Krauthammer, one of Fox’s commentators, jokes that Ailes saw the opportunity to serve a niche market of half the country. The point of the quip is that the major networks had a liberal outlook and millions of Americans wanted something else.
But Ailes also saw that what these Americans wanted wasn’t only or even primarily ideological conservatism, whether of the free-market or traditional-religious varieties. What they wanted was nationalism. My National Review colleague Jonah Goldberg, also a Fox commentator, made the point well in a 2004 column. During World War II, Ernie Pyle won the Pulitzer Prize while wearing a military uniform and writing from an unabashedly pro-American point of view. Decades later, distinguished journalists were debating whether it would be ethical to warn American troops about an impending attack. A lot of Americans preferred the older attitude, and a network where anchors saw no problem with wearing a flag pin was for them.