Back when Roger Ailes bought himself a campus newsroom, he had a better reputation. It was 2007 and Fox News, the cable channel he’d founded a decade before, was years into its dominance over rivals CNN and MSNBC. Sure — Ailes’s network engaged in routine distortions of the news for the sake of its conservative audience, but the media needed such balance, right?
So Ohio University, Ailes’s alma mater, was happy to accept the TV mogul’s $500,000 commitment in 2007, the basis for the establishment of the “Roger E. Ailes Newsroom” at WOUB, a radio and TV outlet that is a “non-academic unit” of the university’s Scripps College of Communication. Before graduating from the university in 1962, Ailes had served for two years as the station’s student manager. This agreement, accordingly, made some sense at the time:
Don’t blame Ohio University for this mistake. Thanks to extraordinary measures of secrecy, paranoia and control, Ailes throughout his 20-year tenure at Fox News managed to keep his awful actions under wraps. Then, last month, Gretchen Carlson, a former Fox News host, filed a sexual discrimination/harassment lawsuit against Ailes. The wraps came off: Woman after woman has come forward to tell of mistreatment under Ailes. Perhaps the most horrifying of the tales belongs to former Fox News booker Laurie Luhn, who told New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman that her harassment under Ailes lasted for more than 20 years. In one episode, Luhn alleges that Ailes instructed her to dance for him while she was attired in black garter and stockings — her “uniform,” as Ailes put it. The Fox News boss took video of the performance. “I am going to put it in a safe-deposit box just so we understand each other,” Ailes said when she asked what he’d do with the footage. Another lowlight: Ailes allegedly grabbed the buttocks of a 2002 Fox News intern.
Last month, Ailes resigned his post at Fox News over all of this, a move precipitated by an internal review of his management under the auspices of the law firm Paul, Weiss.
In spite of all this damning evidence, Ohio University remains noncommittal about the “Roger E. Ailes Newsroom.” “The University is carefully monitoring the situation, including the perspectives of multiple stakeholders in our community, but will not make public comments on the issue at this time,” wrote university spokeswoman Carly Glick in response to a request from the Erik Wemple Blog. That position pretty much jibes with what it told the Daily Beast’s Asawin Suebsaeng — that it wouldn’t “take a position until the matter is resolved.”
Resolved it is: Roger Ailes is a towering, predatory, paranoid, sexist creep who lost his job because of those very attributes. Any professor at the Scripps College of Communication could tell you that there’s enough on-the-record input to establish that.
There’s a reason that Ohio University isn’t under a great deal of pressure to decommission the “Roger E. Ailes Newsroom”: It’s profile is pretty low as it is. WOUB is a PBS- and NPR-affiliated outlet whose TV and radio outlets, combined, cover parts of Ohio, Kentucky, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. According to its “About Us” page, more than 200 Ohio University students assist the outlet each year on churning out journalism for the station’s audience.
Do the station’s reporters and hosts ever mention the “Roger E. Ailes Newsroom” on air? “Never, never,” responds Mark Brewer, general manager of WOUB public media. And are any events advertised as occurring at the “Roger E. Ailes Newsroom”? “Never, never,” repeats Brewer, who declined to get into the politics of the whole thing.
The newsroom is designated with a hallway plaque as part of the university’s “naming conventions,” says Brewer. Which means it should be really easy to take down.