Calling in to Thursday’s NBC Today during a special report on the death of former Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, New York magazine’s Gabe Sherman bid the media executive good riddance as he launched into an incendiary rant calling Ailes a “terrorizing figure” whose “quest for power consumed him.”
Earlier in the breaking news segment, co-hosts Savannah Guthrie and Matt Lauer rightfully pointed out the controversy surrounding Ailes’ firing from Fox News over sexual harassment allegations. Guthrie noted: “So a legendary figure in media and politics, and more recently embroiled in this sexual harassment controversy.” Lauer added that he “revolutionized the way news was covered on cable television,” but recently was “probably a name that most people read in the headlines associated with that sexual harassment scandal.”
However, when Lauer asked Sherman to “put in perspective” Ailes’s career, the left-wing anti-Fox crusader couldn’t contain his vitriol:
Well, you know, it’s a complicated story....On the one hand, he is a revolutionary. He changed both media and politics forever....But on the other hand, he ruled Fox News with an iron fist. Women who worked at Fox News, as we’ve now learned through lawsuits, were subject to a hostile work environment and sexual harassment. And Ailes could be a domineering and terrorizing figure within the company....He’s in one hand a genius, but also a very tragic – and in some ways, his quest for power consumed him.
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Sherman wrapped up his nasty obituary by observing: “And it’s sad in a certain way for a writer who has covered him, he kind of died alone. He moved to Palm Beach, was sort of in exile after the sexual harassment allegations, and basically ends this final of chapter of his life totally alone.”
After Sherman’s tirade, Guthrie at least read a statement from Ailes’s wife mourning the passing of her husband.
Sherman was not alone in his attacks on Ailes, liberal journalists took to Twitter Thursday morning to celebrate the death of the Fox News founder.
Here is a transcript of the May 18 exchange:
8:51 AM ET
SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: Somebody who was the founding CEO of Fox News earlier in his career, worked in television. Was in the Nixon White House, worked on the reelection campaign for Ronald Reagan, among other political figures. So a legendary figure in media and politics, and more recently embroiled in this sexual harassment controversy.
MATT LAUER: Yeah, I think in the early part of his career he was credited as a guy who revolutionized the way news was covered on cable television. But in the last year or so of his career probably a name that most people read in the headlines associated with that sexual harassment scandal that took place within Fox News that eventually led to his ouster.
GUTHRIE: And that’s something Stephanie Gosk, who joins us now, has been covering extensively. What do you make of this news this morning? Had there been rumblings that perhaps he was in ill health, obviously having gone through some difficult times personally recently?
STEPHANIE GOSK: No we hadn’t. And we hadn’t heard anything about his health. I mean, I think you look at him, he’s 77 years old. He looked to be somewhat overweight. You can imagine health problems potentially for someone at that age. But obviously when you talk about Roger Ailes, two really big things, Alies revolutionized, as Matt said, Fox News and cable news. But he really changed the landscape of news in this country, offering up a conservative option for many people who felt there wasn’t one out there. And then most recently, as we’ve been covering extensively, the sexual harassment allegations against him gaining so much momentum that actually it led to him being fired from his position.
GUTHRIE: And he had a long-time friendship with the President of the United States Donald Trump, so we’ll keep an eye on his Twitter and see if word has reached the White House.
LAUER: I want to bring in journalist Gabe Sherman, who works for us now and who has covered Fox News and Roger Ailes extensively. He joins us on the phone. Gabe, good morning to you.
GABE SHERMAN: Thanks for having me.
LAUER: Are you learning anything else about the circumstances under which Roger Ailes passed away?
SHERMAN: The immediate circumstances this morning are still in question, Matt, but the larger context – you talked about health problems, it’s important to point out that Roger Ailes has struggled with severe health problems his whole life. He’s a hemophiliac, which for a person of his generation was a serious condition. He’s has multiple surgeries, he’s had many joint replacements. He had a secret prostate surgery several years ago that took him out of Fox News for weeks on end. So he has been in sort of serious health decline for years now. So the larger context is his passing at 77, you know, while early, is not surprising to people who have covered him because of his ill health for years.
LAUER: Gabe, try to put in perspective for us, if you can, Roger Ailes and his early career at Fox and then Roger Ailes and his departure from Fox.
SHERMAN: Well, you know, it’s a complicated story, Matt. I wrote a biography of Ailes that came out a couple of years ago. On the one hand, he is a revolutionary. He changed both media and politics forever. He built Fox News from nothing into Rupert Murdoch’s most valuable asset, valued at over $15 billion.
But on the other hand, he ruled Fox News with an iron fist. Women who worked at Fox News, as we’ve now learned through lawsuits, were subject to a hostile work environment and sexual harassment. And Ailes could be a domineering and terrorizing figure within the company. And so, it’s a very complicated story. He’s in one hand a genius, but also a very tragic – and in some ways, his quest for power consumed him.
SHERMAN: And it’s sad in a certain way for a writer who has covered him, he kind of died alone. He moved to Palm Beach, was sort of in exile after the sexual harassment allegations, and basically ends this final of chapter of his life totally alone.
LAUER: And yet, Gabe, I think it’s important to mention right now that he denied those charges of sexual harassment until the end.
SHERMAN: That is correct. And he’s repeatedly denied the allegations all throughout, in the wake of Gretchen Carlson’s lawsuit and other women who have come forward.