Using such tactics, Fox grew in popularity, eclipsing rivals Cable News Network and MSNBC. FNC’s 2014 prime-time audience of 1.7 million households was more than the combined number of viewers of the other two, according to the Pew Research Center.
In July 2016, Ailes was ousted as head of Fox News after a sexual harassment lawsuit was filed by a former anchor, Gretchen Carlson, who claimed she was fired for refusing his sexual advances. Ailes said Carlson’s allegations were false and her lawsuit was in retaliation for the network’s decision not to renew her contract because her “low ratings were dragging down the afternoon lineup.”
Carlson left the network and received a $20 million settlement from Fox several months later. Her accusations were followed by claims of harassment from other women, including Fox News host Andrea Tantaros. The scandal also engulfed one of the network’s biggest stars, Megyn Kelly, who said that Ailes harassed her. Kelly left the network in early 2017.
On 2014 revenue of $2.1 billion, Fox News made a profit of $1.1 billion, according to Pew. That made it the most profitable division of 21st Century Fox, its parent, according to the 2013 authorized biography Roger Ailes: Off Camera by Zev Chafetz, who previously wrote a biography about Rush Limbaugh and became a Fox News contributor.
Given his mission, Ailes hired conservatives, including eventual star commentators Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity. He lured anchor Neil Cavuto and others from CNBC, the leading cable business channel, where Ailes had been president prior to starting Fox News.
Ailes ruled with a volatile temper and domineering behavior, according to a 2014 unauthorized biography The Loudest Voice in the Room: How the Brilliant, Bombastic Roger Ailes Built Fox News — and Divided a Country by Gabriel Sherman.
He once punched a hole in the wall of an NBC control room where he was producing The Tomorrow Show, according to the Chafetz book. Ailes told the author: “It was just a drywall, and luckily I didn’t hit any beams. But somebody put a frame around the hole and wrote, ‘Don’t mess with Roger Ailes.’ “
Fox became a refuge for out-of-office conservative politicians, including Sarah Palin, John Kasich, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee. Some, such as Kasich, went on to run for office again.
Under Ailes, Fox News was credited with helping to create the anti-government Tea Party movement and aiding the GOP takeover of both chambers of Congress in 2014 for the first time in eight years.
Roger Eugene Ailes was born May 15, 1940, in Warren, Ohio, to Robert Ailes, a factory foreman, and his wife Donna. He had hemophilia yet his father sometimes beat him with a belt, according to Sherman’s biography.