It was big news when Roger Ailes died. Everyone in his industry acknowledged that a serious, even transcendent force in American media and politics had passed away. Without Fox News over these last 20 years, the shape of American politics would be far different. A heretofore unanimously liberal media suddenly had a counter-weight, and much to their horror, this uppity network soon has surpassed all of its rivals in cable news -- combined. The era of unchallenged liberal enlightenment was over. Roger was accused of making American dumber, angrier, and more bigoted.
One notable Ailes critic really stretched reality beyond the breaking point. The New York Times – just off a successful crusade to get Bill O’Reilly fired – recruited Monica Lewinsky to blame Roger Ailes for her plight in 1998. It was not an obituary for Ailes, she wrote, but an “obituary for the culture he purveyed.”
You read that correctly.
"His Dream Was My Nightmare,” read the headline. The pull quote was “Roger Ailes built a ratings juggernaut by exploiting me.” [The illustration above of Ailes handling the little people like dolls appeared above the article. --Ed.]
In this preposterous telling of the story, Lewinsky was the innocent young woman tied to the train tracks, tied there by the nefarious forces at Fox News. Forget her complete lack of judgment. Forget her moral turpitude. Forget Bill Clinton, too. Blame Fox.
“Just two years after Rupert Murdoch appointed Mr. Ailes to head the new cable news network, my relationship with President Bill Clinton became public. 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....It worked like magic: The story hooked viewers and made them Fox loyalists. For the past 15 years, Fox News has been the No. 1 news station; last year the network made about $2.3 billion.”
All because of Monica Lewinsky?
Lewinsky, in her latest incarnation, is a victim of “cyber-bullying,” claiming that’s what she suffered at the hands of Bill Clinton’s critics. Is it “cyber-bullying” to state she behaved like a complete slut, besmirching the honor of the Oval Office in the process?
Anyone watching news in 1998 knows that everyone in the media covered the Lewinsky scandal relentlessly. So by Lewinsky’s standard, everyone in the media was guilty of bullying and “hooking viewers” and padding their profits. Halfway through, she admits Fox was not alone. So why single out Fox and Roger Ailes?
Lewinsky can be more upset with Fox because they didn’t spin for Team Clinton and spend most of that year engaging in moral relativism, like, say, The New York Times, which pounded away at the puritanical Republicans and special prosecutor Kenneth Starr.
The rest of us remember ABC’s Diane Sawyer asking Ken Starr if he was the “sex police” and insisting on this amoral view: “There was gambling in the casino in Casablanca and you are the only one who is shocked. We are not shocked." She suggested the public view of the Starr Report was “demented pornography, pornography for Puritans.”
Lewinsky complained that Fox took a poll in the first weeks of the intern scandal asking if she was a “young tramp looking for thrills”? That’s blunt. But what other words does one use for an intern flashing her thong underwear at the married president of the United States at their first meeting, and later performing oral sex for him under his presidential desk? An “overachiever”?
Five days after his death, Monica Lewinsky is accusing Ailes of exploiting a “personal and national tragedy” for profit. She is a pathetic creature, and the perfect foil for The New York Times.