Fox News as we know it may be screwed: Roger Ailes' stunning rebuke could spell the end

With Rupert Murdoch stepping aside, Roger Ailes will now report to Murdoch's Fox-hating sons

By Sophia Tesfaye

Senior Politics Editor

Published June 17, 2015 9:29PM (EDT)

Roger Ailes          (Reuters/Fred Prouser)
Roger Ailes (Reuters/Fred Prouser)

After reports surfaced that Rupert Murdoch planned to step down as head of media giant 21st Century Fox, many were left to wonder where the shakeup would leave Fox News Channel and its longtime head, Roger Ailes.

CNBC broke the news last week that the billionaire CEO of 21st Century Fox was to step down as head of the media conglomerate, leaving the management to his two sons, Lachlan and James. It seemed like a bad omen for the right-wing network: Murdoch's sons reportedly detest it.

But Ailes, the evil genius behind Fox News, was said to be left unaffected by the change, somehow managing to continue to report to Murdoch directly despite his impending departure.

Well, who said that? Fox News, of course:

Rupert Murdoch would continue to serve as executive chairman, according to Stuart Varney, host of Fox Business Network’s “Varney & Co.” Fox News Chairman and CEO Roger Ailes will continue to run the news network, reporting directly to Rupert Murdoch, according to Fox News Channel.

Nope. Not true. Not happening. Just more Fox fiction.

"Roger will report to Lachlan and James but will continue his unique and long-standing relationship with Rupert,” 21st Century Fox spokesperson Nathaniel Brown said in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter

Ailes will not actually get any special arrangement to continue reporting directly to Rupert. Instead, Ailes' new boss will be an environmentalist.

Ailes biographer and veteran Fox News watcher Gabriel Sherman describes a scene at Fox last Thursday that reminds me of the infamous on-air Karl Rove meltdown after getting word from Megyn Kelly that Mitt Romney had lost Ohio and the 2012 election:

According to a well-placed source, Ailes directed Fox Business executive Bill Shine to tell anchor Stuart Varney to read the statement on air. "Ailes told Shine to write the announcement of the move for Varney to say," the source said. "In it, Ailes inserted language that he would report to Rupert."

That's the Roger Ailes way, just make stuff up to feed to your anchors who enthusiastically repeat the baseless claims on-air. News.

Well, it finally appears to be blowing back in Ailes' face now. Sherman writes of the impact of Ailes' "demotion":

For much of the past 15 years, Roger Ailes has operated with virtual impunity inside Rupert Murdoch’s media empire. Nothing, it seemed, could induce Murdoch to rebuke Ailes publicly, even if Ailes forced Murdoch to choose between him and his sons. Such was Ailes’s power that he has been able to run a right-wing political operation under the auspices of a news channel.

This week, for the first time, there are signs that this remarkable era may be entering its twilight. Yesterday, 21st Century Fox announced that Ailes would be reporting to Lachlan and James Murdoch. For Ailes, it was a stinging smack-down and effectively a demotion.


No one I spoke to in the hours after the news broke could remember a time when Ailes has been so publicly diminished. "History was made," a longtime Ailes associate told me. "It is terrible for Roger," said another. "It is a public contradiction. Roger takes these things personally. Worse, it shows that Rupert did not give him a heads-up of the management change in advance. That alone was a slight to his ego."

Ailes is set to begin reporting to 42 year-old James and 43 year-old Lachlan Murdoch on July 1.

By Sophia Tesfaye

Sophia Tesfaye is Salon's senior editor for news and politics, and resides in Washington, D.C. You can find her on Twitter at @SophiaTesfaye.

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