Roger Ailes, former Fox News Chairman and CEO, died last week at 77-years-old. Many have written personal tributes and memorials to the man who shaped the landscape of cable news, but there’s one person who doesn’t remember Roger Ailes so fondly, and that’s Monica Lewinsky.
New York Magazine reported that Monica Lewinsky published her own goodbye to Ailes in the New York Times, saying she remembers him as a callous man who used her affair with former President Bill Clinton to build a media empire.
Lewinsky’s affair with President Clinton became public in 1998, just two years after Ailes was appointed head of Fox News.
Lewinsky wrote in the New York Times that her piece should not be considered “another obituary for Roger Ailes,” but rather an obituary for “the culture he purveyed.”
“Mr. Ailes, a former Republican political operative, took the story of the affair and the trial that followed and made certain his anchors hammered it ceaselessly, 24 hours a day.”
Lewinsky explained to the Times that she suddenly found herself part of a news cycle devoted to mercilessly attacking her personal life, her looks, and her character.
“My family and I huddled at home, worried about my going to jail. I was the original target of Ken Starr’s investigation, threatened with 27 years for having been accused of signing a false affidavit, obstructing justice, suborning perjury and other crimes.”
Lewinsky believes her personal tragedy helped Fox News become the conservative media empire it is today. The former White House intern said that on Fox News it seemed that no innuendo was too vile, no rumor too unsubstantiated, and no accusation too abhorrent.
And Lewinsky was quick to see the karmic irony of this turn of events, noting that “Ailes harnessed a sex scandal to build a cable juggernaut” and was finally brought down by a sex scandal of his own. Lewinsky hopes that now the public will finally get the fair and balanced news pledged by Ailes so long ago.
The Hill reported that Fox News’s dream became Lewinsky’s nightmare. In a New York Times piece headlined “Roger Ailes’s dream was my nightmare,” Lewinsky wrote that her life, her looks, and her character were attacked mercilessly. She said that truth and fiction were mixed at random in the service of higher ratings.
“The comments on television and online were excruciating. I ceased being a three-dimensional person. Instead, I became a whore, a bimbo, a slut and worse.”
And it wasn’t only Fox News attacking her. Lewinsky added that other cable news channels were quick to join Fox News in covering her story in the gutter.
Roger Ailes, former CEO of Fox News, died last week following complications from a fall at his Florida home, and his death prompted Lewinsky’s piece.
Ailes, who led the network for 20 years, resigned from Fox News in July 2016 amid many allegations of sexual harassment. It’s understood that Fox News is currently under federal investigation into how sexual harassment settlements were handled during Ailes’s tenure.
The Huffington Post reported that Lewinsky has struggled for decades to deal with the fallout from her relationship with former President Bill Clinton, and the media frenzy that ensured. And now, Lewinsky says her final farewell to the man who shamelessly capitalized on her scandal.
According to Lewinsky, Ailes’s success in building Fox News into the cable juggernaut it is today was intimately tied to the non-stop news coverage of her most painful moments.
Lewinsky explained that her relationship with former President Bill Clinton became public just two years after Rupert Murdoch appointed Ailes as head of the new cable news network. From that moment on, Ailes used the story of the affair and the following trial, hammering it 24 hours a day.
And it worked! Viewers were hooked by the story and became loyal to Fox. Fox News has been the No. 1 news station for the past 15 years, last year making $2.3 billion.
John Moody is a Fox executive editor, and he commented on what he referred to as the “the Lewinsky saga,” saying that it put Fox News “on the news map.”
“Monica was a news channel’s dream come true.”
Last summer, Roger Ailes was removed from Fox News amid charges of sexual harassment. Gretchen Carlson filed a lawsuit against Ailes in July 2016, saying he had sexually harassed her, and since then nine more women have come forward.
In her column, Lewinsky points out the irony of Roger Ailes’s career at Fox.
“As the past year has revealed, thanks to brave women like Gretchen Carlson and Megyn Kelly, it is clear that at Fox, this culture of exploitation wasn’t limited to the screen. Mr. Ailes’s harnessed a sex scandal to build a cable juggernaut and then was brought down by his own.”
The New York Times reported that when Keith Olbermann left MSNBC in late 1998, he expressed his disgust at the frequency of the Lewinsky coverage.
Lewinsky believes that James and Lachlan Murdoch are now trying to change the culture created by Roger Ailes. She added that she hopes the Murdochs understand that today’s Americans are not interested in a culture that views harassment and hate as part of running a successful news business.
In her farewell to Roger Ailes, Monica Lewinsky said she hopes that Americans will now get the fair and balanced news that the late Fox chief pledged to Americans.
But Jonathan S. Tobin for the National Review disagrees. In his opinion, Monica Lewinsky should blame “the man she idolized” (Bill Clinton) and his supporters for what she went through.
Calling her accusations against Ailes and Fox News “complete hogwash,” Tobin says that those who believe that Fox News’ coverage of the affair was “profoundly wrong” and that it “helped solidify a ‘culture of humiliation'” have misunderstood the role that Fox News, and other outlets, played in the scandal.
“Fox didn’t achieve its dominance by exploiting Lewinsky. That happened because, along with conservative talk radio, it provided an alternative to a broadcast media that had hitherto been a virtual liberal monopoly.”
What do you think? Is Monica Lewinsky justified in her complaints against Roger Ailes and Fox News? Or is she simply misdirecting her anger: anger that should properly be directed at the former President?
[Featured Image by Marty Lederhandler/AP Images]