Roger Ailes, the media titan who went from Richard Nixon’s successful 1968 presidential campaign to co-founding Fox News, the massive conservative cable news network he ultimately resigned from last year in the wake of far-reaching sexual harassment allegations, died Thursday at 77. As Ailes’ network was often criticized for bending or exaggerating the truth, he was often ferociously protective of his own secrets. That didn’t stop people from digging, though. Here are five books to read to learn more about Ailes, his career, and his stewardship of Fox News.
The Loudest Voice in the Room, Gabriel Sherman
As the Fox News sexual harassment scandal unfolded last year, it was Sherman who doggedly reported the story out, often uncovering unbeatable scoops from well-placed sources inside Fox News. He had the experience, having written this meticulously researched Ailes bio just a few years before. The book reportedly so angered Ailes that he tried all kinds of tactics to intimidate Sherman, from illegal surveillance to hiring a private investigator.
The Selling of the President, Joe McGinniss
Decades before Fox News, Ailes first made his name as a political powerhouse on Richard Nixon’s 1968 presidential campaign. Many political historians connect Nixon’s loss in the 1960 election to his televised debate with John F. Kennedy, in which the Republican candidate was outshone by his more charismatic opponent. As this landmark book shows, it was Ailes who helped Nixon learn his lesson and crafted an image that ultimately convinced Americans Nixon was right for the job.
Settle For More, Megyn Kelly
Megyn Kelly was one of Ailes’ biggest stars before becoming instrumental in his downfall, and ultimately departing the Ailes-less Fox News for NBC. Her memoir gives a close-up account of Ailes’ relationship to his stars. Among other things, Kelly writes of Ailes making unwelcome sexual advances towards her (claims Ailes denied).
In-Your-Face Politics: The Consequences of Uncivil Media, Diana C. Mutz
One of Fox News’ many impacts on American culture may have been its popularization of angry, confrontational debate. The network’s biggest star, Bill O’Reilly (who has now gone from the network after his own tide of sexual harassment allegations), was famous for dressing-down guests. In this book, Mutz explores the consequences of that style on American media and politics — an incisive look at Ailes’ legacy.
The Fox Effect: How Roger Ailes Turned a Network Into a Propaganda Machine, David Brock/Ari Rabin-Havt/Media Matters
It’s a battle of the political operatives as longtime Democratic partisan Brock brings the full force of his media watchdog group Media Matters to bear on Ailes. The book meticulously analyzes the myriad ways Ailes used his network in the service of Republican political objectives.