Roger Ailes Doc Director, Alisyn Camerota on Late Fox News CEO's Political, #MeToo Legacy

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Alexis Bloom

Executive producer Alex Gibney also discusses the connection between Ailes' business success and alleged sexual misconduct: "I think that he created Fox as a vehicle for monetizing vitriol, and I think that same anger that motivated so many people to watch Fox was clearly something that was stirring inside him in terms of what he was doing to women."

The director of Roger Ailes doc Divide and Conquer wasted no time making a connection between the late former Fox News CEO and President Donald Trump's administration at the film's New York premiere Thursday night. 

“In case you think this film isn’t relevant anymore, I’ll just remind you that Bill Shine was Roger Ailes’ right-hand man for decades, and he’s in the Trump White House now, and advised [Brett} Kavanaugh before the Senate hearings," Alexis Bloom told the Paley Center for Media audience before a screening of the doc. "It’s a revolving door between the Trump administration and Fox.”

Ailes died in 2017, but like Bloom said, his legacy isn't limited to Fox News, where he served as the chairman and CEO before he resigned after facing numerous sexual misconduct claims. Former Fox News co-president Shine is indeed the White House communications director, and reportedly a key member of the team that prepped Kavanaugh for his testimony in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding sexual assault allegations by Christine Blasey Ford. 

Alisyn Camerota, a CNN anchor who appears in the film (and once worked at Fox News) said Thursday that she "hears Roger all the time." 

"Roger casts a long shadow," she said. "I hear it in Donald Trump, I heard it in Brett Kavanaugh.”

Camerota specifically cited Kavanaugh's rant about beer during his testimony: "I drank beer with my friends. Almost everyone did. Sometimes I had too many beers. Sometimes others did. I liked beer. I still like beer."  

"I thought, 'Oh, my gosh. I know that. I know that slogan. I know that syncopation of a sentence; that something is so easy,' " Camerota said. "After a while, you can channel Roger. It’s just, boil it down to its most simplistic, gut-level satisfaction." 

Camerota also attributed the president's political ascendancy to Ailes and Fox News.

“Fox News created Donald Trump as a presidential candidate," she said. "I watched it happen. Before that, he was a real estate mogul. He was a celebrity. Then, Fox & Friends gave him a slot once a week where he could pontificate about politics." 

Camerota added that Trump's appearances always resulted in a ratings spike. "That told me people liked how he packaged things; people liked how he said it," she said. "And they kept booking him. And that was the beginning of his political career.”

Trump is mentioned throughout the doc, but mostly to illustrate Ailes' impact on Republican politics.

"I hope [Divide and Conquer] illuminates our contemporary America in a new way," Bloom told The Hollywood Reporter. "By understanding his life and what he’s done, it will help us understand where we are today.”

This includes the current state of Fox News, which Bloom said exists to entertain rather than inform. "Roger wasn't really a journalist, he was a showman," she told THR

Camerota agreed, adding that he never even pretended to be a journalist, and was instead "a TV wizard." 

“He would take people under his wing and teach them about how to sit on a set, how to command the screen, how to wear jewel tones, how to pop through the screen," Camerota said. "All of that is very valuable for television, for a television show. Roger was good at sloganeering. He was good at messaging. And he was great at creating television that popped. He didn’t care about journalism.”

In fact, Camerota claims that in all her years working at Fox News, the two "never once spoke about journalism." 

Though Ailes hired numerous journalists, including Camerota, she said, "At the end of the day, what we did, our craft, the rules, the journalistic standards — those weren’t as much of his interest."

"He focused more on Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly — they are not journalists," she said. "They never were. They never took a single class of journalism. These were broadcasters, talented broadcasters. There’s a difference. But Roger didn’t care about the difference, and they never explained to the audience that there was a difference. So the audience thought they were getting news."

When she first joined Fox News, Camerota was actually optimistic at the idea of working somewhere "different," as she said Ailes had promised the network would be. 

"[Ailes] was going to make a news channel for people in flyover country; people who had never heard their own views reflected back at them; people who felt left out; people whose voices hadn’t been heard," she said. "There was something kind of refreshing about that for a while, but at the end of the day, I felt that it morphed." 

This seemed to happen around the same time as the Monica Lewinsky scandal, according to Camerota. She started getting different story assignments "that were clearly from just the conservative lens," and was also given more talking points. 

"Then, Roger saw how successful it was. We became the No. 1 network and it worked," Camerota said. "And I think there’s something very intoxicating about winning.”

But according to Divide and Conquer executive producer Alex Gibney, no matter how successful Ailes became, his paranoid nature — carrying guns with him at all times, having a bulletproof office — seemed to subsist. 

"He was afraid," Gibney told THR. "And I think that fear turned into a kind of raw anger and the worst kind of abuse of power." 

Abuse, Gibney said, is what seemed to be the unifying factor between the different parts of Ailes' life that Bloom ended up showing in the film. "I think that he created Fox as a vehicle for monetizing vitriol, and I think that same anger that motivated so many people to watch Fox was clearly something that was stirring inside him in terms of what he was doing to women."

Dozens of women accused Ailes of sexual misconduct, which most often allegedly occurred in the form of offers of career advancement in return for sexual favors. But according to Divide and Conquer, the abuse didn't start and end with Ailes. 

"There’s so much we don’t know about sexual harassment and sexual abuse at Fox," Bloom said. "There are people who got settlements who still work there whose names we don’t know. There are people who got settlements and left. And there are people who never got any settlements at all. It showed up everywhere. It was a place without a functional human resources [department] and without a functional legal counsel. It really was Roger’s shop. It had no oversight."

Camerota, also one of Ailes' accusers, shared Bloom's sentiment. 

“Now that I work someplace different, I’m stunned by when I think back to how pervasive the sexuality was," she said. “I prided myself on trying to navigate it because I thought that maybe that was what the workplace was like. I now see that it doesn’t have to be, but it was very, very prevalent. It was Roger, and because Roger ruled the roost, it permeated down from there. There were all sorts of just inappropriate things. Part of it was the time, and it was before #MeToo, so things have changed; the landscape has changed. But it was also that place. And because people knew that Roger liked it, and Roger sort of spoke in a lascivious way, it became kind of pervasive.”

The #MeToo movement also hadn't started when Bloom began making the film, but she said as the production and movement progressed, the women who spoke with her were able to "feel a little bit more brave."