Over at Daily Intelligencer, Gabriel Sherman has a fresh account of the banishment of Roger Ailes from the Fox News Channel, focused mainly on the women at Fox who meticulously built their case against the infamous network head in response to years of sexual harassment. You can revisit many of the gory details of the case: the snide sexist comments, the way Ailes treated his female talent as objects for his on-demand titillations, and the retreat to intimidation whenever one of Ailes’ victims dared to stand up to him. All in all, it paints the picture of an ouster that was justly deserved.
Here’s an interesting side detail to this whole story, though. Ailes went from being forced out at Fox News under a grotesque, career-ending scandal to ― hey, let me double-check this ... oh, yeah, here we go ― advising a presidential campaign.
That’s like ... fffffucked up, man! I think that maybe more people should talk about this?
Of course, many people have noted that Ailes has ended up in the advisory orbit of GOP presidential candidate and sewage-poisoned log flume Donald Trump. One can’t help but notice this because, of late, the Trump campaign has seemingly made a mission of collecting many of the right wing’s more diabolical characters, “Pokemon Go”-style.
Trump traded up friend-to-dictators Paul Manafort for the dick-to-his-friends Steve Bannon, who apparently nurtured a rancid corporate culture of his own over at Breitbart News. More recently, Trump added Citizens United hatchet-man David Bossie to his camp as deputy campaign manager. They join ranks that include famed “dirty trickster” Roger Stone, trench-mouthed adviser Carl Paladino, and the perpetually hanging on hanger-on Corey Lewandowski, whose relationship to the campaign ― maybe he’s in, maybe he’s not ― seems to depend on the wind direction. (Recent acquisition Kellyanne Conway is the seasoned professional who’s been tasked with extracting a functioning, professional campaign from this rogues’ gallery ― that is, if she has any time left between all the occasions Ailes asks her to “give him a little twirl.”)
So, yeah, maybe it’s easy to lose a Roger Ailes in that sketchy wilderness, but one would think that the fact that Ailes got tossed from the news network he led to prominence after it came to light that he’d been routinely terrorizing his female employees might make it just a little bit harder. (Harder still, when you factor in the allegations he was using shareholder money for what amounted to prostitution, the “black box” espionage operation he set up within Fox, and the massive settlements he paid out to keep all of this quiet.)
Strangely however, the fact that Ailes’ workplace scandal ― the very thing that made it possible for him to advise the Trump campaign in a formal capacity in the first place ― doesn’t seem to come up all that often, and when it does, it never comes with any sort of accompanying comment noting that it’s really, really messed up that the guy went from his specific sort of tawdry downfall to the inner circle of a presidential campaign, or that this is the sort of hire that most presidential campaigns try to not make at this stage of the game.
The New York Times, in its initial report on Ailes’ involvement with the campaign, very quickly notes that Ailes was “ousted ... over charges of sexual harassment.” But the same piece moves quickly to suggest that for Ailes, “being connected with Mr. Trump’s campaign could be a form of redemption after he was pushed out of the powerful network that he helped build.” Leaving aside the fact that the Trump campaign seems to the planet’s least likely repository of spiritual salvation, how would this work? It would seem that Ailes’ path to “redemption” would necessarily include a raft of apologies and the making of substantial restitution to the women he abused.
“Still,” writes the Times, “Mr. Ailes’s involvement is certain to stoke controversy.” Not if you suggest that his involvement might lead to redemption it won’t!
CNN’s Brian Stelter, pointing out the strange way the Trump campaign seemed to not want to make its embrace of Ailes known ― endeavoring to distinguish Ailes as an adviser to Trump, but not to the campaign ― notes Ailes’ ouster and provides the understatement: “The distinction is significant because Ailes is a subject of controversy.” I’ll say! And attendant to that controversy is the fact that Trump actually defended Ailes during the swirling scandal. “I can tell you that some of the women that are complaining,” said Trump, “I know how much he’s helped them.” Sure, sure.
“It makes a certain sense,” writes The Atlantic’s David Graham, “that ― as The New York Times reports ― Roger Ailes, the recently ousted Fox News chief, is advising Donald Trump ahead of the presidential debates.”
But, does it??
“Whatever his failings,” Graham writes, “Ailes knows his way around TV and salesmanship.”
I mean, the whole fact that he made a practice of sexually harassing his on-air talent maybe suggests that these skills aren’t as amazing a commodity to a campaign as one might have previously imagined. Moreover, I’m having a really difficult time picturing a conversation between Ailes and Trump in which Trump accepts the premise that Ailes knows more about how to perform on television than the candidate does.
By far the oddest story on the Ailes-Trump team-up comes from The Washington Post’s Callum Borchers, in a piece titled, “Why Donald Trump and Roger Ailes are so cagey about their relationship.” Based on that headline, you’d think that this explanation would be very quickly and capably rendered, because of the rather obvious reason they’d need to be so cagey.
Now, CBS News reports that Ailes participated in a debate prep session Sunday. If the TV titan is assisting Trump, why so cagey? Why wouldn’t the two men just say they are working together?
A few explanations come to mind.
Well, there’s the one explanation ― the one! ― that comes to mind, sits there in the mind, pecks at the mind, demanding attention from the mind, that will only finally get on up out of your mind and leave you alone when you acknowledge it. What are these “few explanations?”
- “These are media-savvy men who understand that restricting information keeps the press interested.”
- “Another possible reason is that denying basic, factual truths is just a thing Trump does. It doesn’t even have to be bad stuff, necessarily. He just seems to get a kick out of telling journalists that their accurate reporting is actually wrong.”
- “It’s also worth considering the possibility that Ailes is the one who wants to keep his work for Trump — however informal — on the down-low ... On the other hand, Ailes’s jumping aboard the Trump Train could tarnish the accolades he and Fox News received early in the GOP primary for tough coverage.”
Callum! Bruh! Don’t overthink this! They are being “cagey” because Roger Ailes watched his career go up in flames after he sexually harassed a bunch of his employees and then Trump turned around and gave this scoundrel a safe harbor.
“At first glance, it seems silly for Trump and Ailes to be so secretive,” writes Borchers, “But the closer you look, the more it makes sense.”
Okay, in the first place, this piece actually fails to make sense of it. But more importantly, the whole arrangement is what looks, at best, “silly.”
Right now, the Trump campaign should be working to make inroads with women voters. Ailes’ presence on the campaign makes that harder. Right now, the Trump campaign wants to keep attention away from his own sketchy workplace behavior. Ailes presence on the campaign makes that harder. The Trump campaign may want to make more hay out of Bill Clinton’s various sexual pecadillos ― something Trump has been signaling all year that he’s prepared to do. Ailes’ presence on the campaign ... well, I’m sure I don’t need to underscore this.
There’s really only one way in which Ailes joining the Trump campaign can possibly make good sense, and that is if what we know as “the Trump campaign” is now in transition from a legitimate presidential candidacy to the foundation of some future media empire ― which is perhaps the most credible theory of what Trump is up to. In that context, joining forces with the ousted Ailes makes sense. The two men might very well be able to construct some new media venture on the backs of their combined talent and the teeming fanbase that Trump has acquired on his presidential run. (”Roger Ailes presents the Trump News Network: the global leader in Title IX complaints!”)
Let us reiterate, for the record: Roger Ailes, a man who was forced from his job running the world’s most successful news channel due to the fact he was a serial sexual harasser, has straightaway gone to work as an adviser to a major party’s presidential campaign.
That’s altogether bonkers, right? We can agree on that, can’t we?
It’s just probably something worth mentioning, on occasion.
[POSTSCRIPT: Serendipitously, Slate’s Michelle Goldberg had many of the same questions that I did today. Know hope!]
Jason Linkins edits “Eat The Press” for The Huffington Post and co-hosts the HuffPost Politics podcast “So, That Happened.” Subscribe here, and listen to the latest episode below.
Editor’s note: Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.