Nothing Ailes Me

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I read this morning that Roger Ailes, chairman of Fox News, just signed on for another four years. He is 72 years old.

What makes some people want to retire at 65 and others when they are too sick or dead? In Roger’s case it must be totally ego, not that his $21 million a year compensation shouldn’t be taken into consideration. Or how about the fact that there is no heir apparent in the Rupert Murdoch family. Hmmm!

I met Roger over 25 years ago when he was between TV and political gigs. He didn’t know what he was going to do with his career, so he called in three PR experts for their advice. I was one of the three. Why? I have no idea. I certainly didn’t have the brass I have today, and my opinions and convictions were not that strong.

The three so-called experts met with him separately. I remember mine so vividly. We met at his Ailes Communications office at 7am. When I entered those premises for the first time, I became fixated on two things: the tower of bagels that sat before him and the giant red telephone that kept ringing all during our meeting.

I was starving. I was dying for him to take one so I could dive in. He didn’t, so I refrained.

The first call he answered was from Nixon. He was counseling him on who to speak to at dinner that night, what the topic should be discussed, and what his remarks should be. It didn’t matter that I was in the room. He let me hear everything.

He had similar conversations with Bush senior and Ronnie. I just politely sat there. This was way before cell phones and the Internet. All I could do was stare into space.

Between phone calls, Ailes asked me several questions. 1-Should he go back into TV or pursue his counsel in politics? 2-Would he be a good CEO in the corporate world? 3-Which publications or TV shows would be best to appear on considering his aspirations.

At the time, I was not that opinionated. I was so concerned about giving him the right answers. He talked and talked until it dawned on me that he wasn’t really asking me anything at all. I was a stage prop. He knew what he wanted and Ailes was just talking out loud.

When he completely exhausted his discussion, he thanked me profusely for my time and complimented me on my sincerity. It was anti-climatic for me, but he sure had a good time hearing himself talk.

I should have had a bagel.

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