Although Roger Ailes, the former CEO of Fox News, died in May 2017, he continues to shape our political world through his TV network. And, in the months since, President Donald Trump has consummated the marriage between the network and the Republican Party.
Fox News, which Trump and his surrogates appear on regularly, has been largely supportive of the President's agenda. This is not a surprise since what we consider to be Trumpian politics is in the DNA of the network. A new documentary, "Divide and Conquer" (opening December 7) makes this clear through a disturbing look into Ailes, the entrepreneur who built Fox News.
The director, Alexis Bloom, told me she wanted to make this film because we "live in Roger's world" and need to know more about the "scaffolding of America" from which Trump came.
When Rupert Murdoch hired Ailes to head his network in 1996, the Republican political operative dreamed of creating a partisan news-entertainment network that sold conservatism in an angry and eye-popping way. The station would appeal to Americans who lived in "fly-over country" and felt their voices were being ignored by traditional media outlets.
When the channel's viewership boomed as a result of its coverage of President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, Ailes doubled down on this kind of pointed storytelling. The network also tried to package itself as legitimate journalism, bringing on serious reporters like Shep Smith and Alisyn Camerota. ...