On Tuesday evening, The Drudge Report reported that Roger Ailes would leaving his post as the head of Fox News with a separation date of July 22; Ailes would leave with a $40 million parachute, as he would be paid until June 30, 2017. That $40 million supposedly included $6.25 million per year in salary as well as an annual bonus of roughly $27.7 million due in mid-August.
This report of Ailes’ termination has been contradicted by Fox News, which has issued a statement denying the claim.
Here are seven things you need to know about Ailes.
1. Ailes was born in Warren, Ohio in 1940. A hemophiliac, his parents divorced in 1960, as his father was abusive. He attended Ohio University, majoring in radio and television. He started his career as a property assistant at KYW-TV in Cleveland in 1962, later becoming the producer, then executive producer for The Mike Douglas Show, which went national. In 1968 he was nominated for a daytime Emmy award. Richard Nixon appeared on the show in 1967, prompting a discussion with Ailes in which Nixon insisted television was a gimmick, but Nixon later invited Ailes to be his executive producer for television. Ailes helped soften Nixon’s image for television, helping him win the presidency in 1968, as noted in The Selling of the President 1968 by Joe McGinniss.
2. Ailes has kept much of his career shrouded in secrecy; when Gabriel Sherman of New York magazine published an exhaustive biography of him, titled The Loudest Voice in the Room, Ailes denied that Sherman’s version was accurate, later releasing his own approved biography titled Roger Ailes: Off Camera. The feud between the two was widely reported, with Sherman including supposed details of Ailes’ sexual harassment of employees and Ailes firing back that Sherman had his facts wrong.
3. Ailes advised Nixon in the 1970’s and George H. W. Bush in the 1990’s as he ran his firms REA Productions and Ailes Communications, Inc. His advice ranged from clothing suggestions to political advice on foreign affairs. He helped guide George H. W. Bush’s 1992 electoral victory; writing and co-producing the famous “Revolving Door” ad that targeted Michael Dukakis as soft on crime as well as Bush’s broadcast spots in the primary and general-election campaigns.
4. In 1996, Ailes founded Fox News, which he ran with an iron hand. By 2002, Fox News had surpassed CNN as the cable-news leader. By 2006 the Wall Street Journal reported, “Mr. Ailes’s independent streak contributed to the decision last year of Rupert Murdoch’s son and heir apparent, Lachlan Murdoch, to quit the company. The younger Murdoch felt Mr. Ailes was undercutting his position, according to people close to the situation… in recent years, Mr. Murdoch, 75 years old, has allowed Mr. Ailes to carve out a larger power base. In the process, that’s sparked tensions within the executive suite
5. Ailes wanted to keep Fox News apart from other divisions of News Corp; in 2005, Rupert Murdoch decided to invest heavily in Internet businesses, leaving FoxNews.com in a centralized ad-sales unit; an irritated Ailes fought for his division’s independence, forcing the Internet division to split with him. Ailes had battled Lachlan Murdoch, Rupert’s son, for roughly a decade before Lachlan Murdoch quit.
6. In June of 2015, after Rupert Murdoch announced he was stepping down as CEO and his son James would replace him while Lachlan would join his father as executive cochairman, Ailes was instructed to report to Murdoch’s sons. Ailes went rogue, issuing a statement that he would continue to run the news network, reporting directly to Rupert Murdoch. Ailes reportedly directed Fox Business Channel anchor Stuart Varney to reiterate that statement on the air.
7. Ailes has come under fire for alleged sexual harassment after Gretchen Carlson accused him of harassing her during her tenure at Fox News. An investigation has been ongoing in which nine other women made similar claims in New York magazine and The Daily Beast. Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly, the network’s most visible star, had been silent about any sexual harassment claims but as New York magazine reported Tuesday morning:
According to two sources briefed on parent company 21st Century Fox’s outside probe of the Fox News executive, led by New York–based law firm Paul, Weiss, Kelly has told investigators that Ailes made unwanted sexual advances toward her about ten years ago when she was a young correspondent at Fox. Kelly, according to the sources, has described her harassment by Ailes in detail.
If Ailes leaves, the network’s news may look quite different: Financial Times reports that Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity and Greta Van Susteren all have clauses in their contracts that would enable them to quit if Ailes leaves.