It is understandable to want to refrain from saying ugly things about people who have just died, but Roger Ailes makes that tradition somewhat difficult.
Ailes’ creation of Fox News—a channel which, through its toxic racism and misogyny, its disregard for facts, its propagandistic shilling for the GOP, and its rejection of common human decency, has done an incredible amount of harm to the world—would be enough to secure his place in the annals of human evil. When you add in the extensively documented reports of his emotional, psychological, and sexual abuse of women over a decades-long period, you are left with a man about whom it is vanishingly difficult to think of anything decent to say at all.
(Oh, and he helped bring us Richard Nixon and the Willie Horton ad—seriously, there’s nothing good!)
But convention is hard to break, which is why the airwaves have been flooded today with tributes to Ailes that were either grotesque in their maudlin fondness or unforgivable in the way they soft-peddled the villainy at his core.
Fox News itself, of course, was a horror show. The hosts of Fox & Friends could barely contain their tears.
“Many people out there would say that he saved this country by starting the Fox News Channel,” Ainsley Earhardt blubbered. “Roger gave every single one of us on this couch an opportunity. He put food on our table and, you know, he went out in such a sad way but who doesn’t have stones? We all have our stones, we all have our cross to bear, and Roger, I will love you forever.”
Many other Fox News people gave similar tributes. Sean Hannity went on an especially wild tweetstorm about it all. Here’s just one of his reactions.
But a gross response from Fox News is to be expected. Worse is the kind of softball nonsense that took place on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, where host Joe Scarborough’s first reaction was to compare Ailes’ impact to that of Steve Jobs.
And then came Chris Matthews, who offered only the vaguest mention of Ailes’ abusive nature:
I was going to call him the other day to wish him well. I know he’s done bad things, been through bad things, but he got me started in cable television back when he was running CNBC and America’s Talking. It’s an amazing thing. I think the reason he succeeded with Fox in the beginning he’s the kind of guy that would watch Fox. It’s like sports fans. They root for the team because they love it. He rooted for his network because that’s what he wanted to watch.
Andrea Mitchell was too busy reminiscing about the first time she met Ailes to even acknowledge the women whose lives he had ruined. It took her many minutes to allude to Ailes’ “personal failures” and the “culture of illegality” at Fox News.
“Regardless of the dark sides of his character...Roger Ailes was fiercely loyal,” Scarborough said, adding, “conservatives were thankful for him.”
There was a bunch of this kind of mealy-mouthed groveling on Twitter, too.
Yes, you truly can’t deny Roger Ailes was a person who did things. Can we also talk about how he put scores of women through hell for decades, or how he empowered some of the worst forces in American life?
Show some respect for the misery Roger Ailes inflicted. Stop saying nice things about him.
Update, 12:24 PM: Tina Brown wins this contest!
“One of the best raconteurs ever.” Jesus Christ.