And, adding to that sorry record, Ailes was an early, deposed villain of the #MeToo movement. (He resigned in 2016 from one of the most powerful positions in global media after former “Fox & Friends” host Gretchen Carlson sued him for sexual harassment; she eventually got a $20 million settlement.)
The flame-throwing writer Xeni Jardin offered a succinct anniversary tweet: “Remembering Roger Ailes, who died one year ago. We’re glad you’re dead.”
Now, we learn, Hollywood is gearing up to immortalize Ailes’s unsavory story in a biopic focusing on his fall from grace.
I take no pleasure in dancing on the man’s grave (well, maybe I do) but if the movie is true to the facts, then Ailes’s legacy will be tarnished further, justifiably so.
Charlize Theron, according to the Hollywood Reporter, will play Megyn Kelly, the former Fox star now at NBC, who was a key figure in bringing down Ailes when she lent her insider’s credibility to multiple women’s claims.
It's hard to argue with the casting of Theron, the accomplished, big-name actress who uncannily looks the part. (The movie is yet untitled, and there has been no announcement of who will play Ailes.)
The ensemble cast reportedly has a prominent place for a Carlson role, too. And that is only right.
Her suit, making the case that Ailes damaged her career after she refused his repeated sexual advances, was one of the early victories in the war against sexual harassment.
It was the first major chink in the armor that, for far too long, protected the likes of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, NBC host Matt Lauer and so many others.
Bringing the Ailes story to a mass audience can be important in making sure that the sexual-harassment reckoning doesn’t backslide, something that’s all too possible.
“This is a story that has to represent the women involved and what happened correctly — for all women (and men) to understand,” Carlson told me by text on Tuesday.
She’s right. Ailes’s story needs to be understood by the mass audience that a Hollywood film can deliver — just as fact-based movies like “Spotlight” or “The Post” have helped many people understand how journalism works, and why it matters.
Separately, the reporter and author Gabriel Sherman, who wrote the definitive biography of Ailes (and suffered the consequences by being turned into a target of retaliation) is working on a Showtime miniseries based on his book, “The Loudest Voice in the Room.”
But even without these worthwhile ventures, Ailes’s dark legacy will endure. He resides in every political moment.
In his obituary for Ailes, The Washington Post’s Marc Fisher described the cable network’s methods diplomatically: “Fox gave intensive coverage to stories that later collapsed under closer inspection.
Fisher quoted conservative-turned-liberal activist David Brock, author of “The Fox Effect” on what Ailes wrought.
“At Fox, Ailes has ushered in the era of post-truth politics. The facts no longer matter, only what is politically expedient, sensationalistic, and designed to confirm the preexisting opinions of a large audience.”
Included in the Fox repertoire was not only the lie that Barack Obama, the first black U.S. president, was born outside the United States, but also, Fisher recalled, “that Obama’s health reform initiative would impose death panels to determine which Americans might be refused medical care; or that human behavior played no role in global climate change.”
In more recent days, of course, Fox has become almost a form of state TV, and its biggest remaining star, Sean Hannity, is a presidential confidant and tireless Trump cheerleader.
“Our media landscape is now a perfect Ailes-ian dystopia, cleaved into camps of captive audiences geeked up on terror and disgust,” wrote Matt Taibbi in a blistering Rolling Stone assessment shortly after Ailes died. “The more scared and hate-filled we are, the more advertising dollars come pouring in, on both sides.”
In short, Ailes fostered hate, abused women and helped give us a divisive president.
If all goes well, Hollywood will immortalize him as an evildoer who got his comeuppance.
Who says there’s no good news any more?
For more by Margaret Sullivan visit wapo.st/sullivan