The news that Roger Ailes had died initially passed as a blip in the middle of Fox & Friends on Thursday morning. “Beth, you're in our thoughts and our prayers,” co-anchor Ainsley Earhardt said after her co-host Steve Doocy read a statement from Ailes’ wife, Elizabeth. “And so is Zachary, their beautiful son.” The show then cut to a commercial break. But toward the end of the broadcast, the hosts memorialized Ailes' death more fully. “Many people out there would say he saved this country by starting the Fox News Channel,” Earhardt said, as meteorologist Janice Dean choked down sobs. “And you know, he went out in such a sad way. But who doesn’t have sins?”
The sins Earhardt was referring to were the sexual harassment allegations leveled against Ailes by several women, including onetime Fox & Friends host Gretchen Carlson, who says she was fired after rebuffing Ailes’s sexual advances. If Ailes was saddened by his departure from Fox, one would imagine the $40 million he received upon leaving lifted his spirits at least a little. But, as Earhardt said, Ailes truly does leave behind an astonishing legacy—millions of Americans do indeed believe that Fox News, as an institution, has stood as a vital bulwark against threats to America and the American way of life both real and, more often, thrust into the imagination by Alies’ menagerie of demagogues. Members of that crew past and present are paying their respects on Twitter:
He was a brilliant man. I'm telling the stories of the Roger Ailes I knew. Listen now https://t.co/pkdyC33lfO— Glenn Beck (@glennbeck) May 18, 2017
Roger Ailes founded one of the most important and successful media outlets in American history. I will miss his friendship dearly. RIP.— Laura Ingraham (@IngrahamAngle) May 18, 2017
Prayers to Beth and Zach. R.I.P Roger Ailes- you changed television as we know it. https://t.co/ijOtxlV488— Eric Bolling (@ericbolling) May 18, 2017
Still one of the most brilliant books on communications: "You are the Message" by Roger Ailes.https://t.co/cOMt47dHRR— Michelle Malkin (@michellemalkin) May 18, 2017
Sean Hannity, perhaps Fox’s biggest current star, is rending his garments.
He saw something in me and many others he hired that we never saw in ourselves, and he forever changed the trajectory https://t.co/kK3Iy9CKZG— Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) May 18, 2017
In many ways he was like a second father after I lost my father 6 months after I started at FNC in 3/97. I am forever grateful. https://t.co/OrDWDjOYBl— Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) May 18, 2017
Alex Jones and Roger Stone, two of the many heirs to the vast right-wing asylum Ailes helped build, have also toasted him.
RIP Roger Ailes a good friend, great American and communications genius @StoneColdTruth— Roger Stone (@RogerJStoneJr) May 18, 2017
Rodger Ailes Dead! RIP founder of modern talk radio and Fox News.. Say what you want but we stand on his shoulders. pic.twitter.com/SWcU1aLBP5— Alex Jones (@RealAlexJones) May 18, 2017
There’s been no word yet from the president, who owes Ailes not just the kind of official remembrance that usually follows the death of a major figure, but sincere thanks—for demonstrating that an entirely different, sealed, and self-sustaining version of reality can be crafted and maintained for a large subset of the American people; for ceaselessly fanning the flames of American racial paranoia; and for making a political movement, driven by the worst impulses in American political life, pig-headed and thick-headed enough to elect him as the most powerful man in the world. It’s only fitting, then, that whenever Trump does leave office—and eventually when he too leaves this mortal coil—he will exit precisely as Ailes did: richer and with a trail of abused women and despondent sycophants behind him.