The most important occurrence of the week just past may not be the formal nomination of Donald Trump, but the sacking of Roger Ailes from Fox News. The Legend of Ailes need not be recounted here. Everyone knows the story. His central insight was that there was a large audience for a news source that offered an alternative to the lockstep liberal TV network news bureaus. And that audience turned out to be half the country. It may have been Fox News, but Ailes was the hedgehog who knew one big thing, if you recall the Archilochus line.
About the specific allegations of sexual harassment against Ailes that are the proximate cause of his downfall, I have no idea. (The Washington Post rehearses it here, if you’re a voyeur. Question, though: When will the Post or other liberal voices apply this same censoriousness to the Hollywood casting couch—also run overwhelmingly by liberals?)
I do know from a friend who worked briefly at Fox in New York that Ailes once said in a large staff meeting that the marketing strategy of Fox News was simple: “Prettier blondes writhing around shinier poles.” It’s as though Fox News merged with the Cheesecake Factory, and I’m not talking dessert here.
Well, they certainly have that formula down. Not that I’m complaining, but I do think it raises the problem of a double standard. Does Gretchen Carlson really think she’d have made it as far as she did in TV news if she had been a plain looking man? How about Megyn Kelly? Kelly is quite good at her job, but she also isn’t above (or is it below) trading on her stunning looks. They and other Fox foxes are happy to trade on their looks to get big contracts and star jobs. No, they shouldn’t get hit on in the workplace, by a powerful boss or anyone else. But c’mon. Let’s not pretend that you can trade on your looks for professional advancement without any problems of this kind. It’s like being shocked that there are naked people in the jacuzzi at the Playboy mansion.
The most important detail from the breakup is the non-compete clause Ailes agreed to in exchange for his $40 million exit package. The supposition was that Ailes would work across the street and open a new network, perhaps with several Fox figures who have clauses in their contracts that allow them to leave the network if Ailes left.
Rumor has it that Rupert Murdoch’s sons are climatistas, and will want to change the content of Fox News over time, at least on this issue. We already have CNN. Do we need another one? Even a hedgehog will know the right answer to that question.