Roger Ailes, who resigned as CEO of Fox News after a barrage of sexual harassment allegations from female subordinates, is married to Elizabeth Ailes, the owner and publisher of the Putnam County News & Recorder, a broadsheet newspaper in Philipstown, New York, where the couple maintains a summer home. Ailes’ ownership of the paper has not been without controversy—mostly, but not entirely, of the hometown-scandal variety—but its editors have avoided covering the dramatic downfall of the owner’s famous husband. Until today.
Thursday’s edition of the P.C.N.R. carries a front-page story about Roger Ailes’ attempts to fund a new senior center, to be named after himself, in the village of Cold Spring. For years, local residents have resisted the donation, owing largely to the benefactor’s reputation and the secret terms of the senior center’s construction, but the harassment scandal at Fox has apparently brought those tensions to a boil:
The [Ailes] family intended to donate $500,000, in the form of the finished renovations to the county, to bring a new senior center to pass in Philipstown after years of delay. Mr. Ailes is the founder of Fox News, and until July 21 was its chairman and CEO. Earlier in the month, an employee whose contract was not renewed, Gretchen Carlson, filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against Ailes.
Ailes has been under vicious attack since then, though he has not yet been able to speak to defend himself. His attorney, Susan Estrich, is a nationally prominent expert on women’s issues and former campaign manager to Michael Dukakis for his presidential run. Estrich said there has been a rush to judgment.
Did you get that? By describing Carlson as “an employee whose contract was not renewed,” readers are encouraged to believe that her sexual harassment lawsuit is motivated by her desire for revenge. Describing Ailes as being “under vicious attack” completely ignores the manner in which Fox News itself immediately attacked Carlson’s reputation and character for crossing the channel’s CEO. Finally, it’s just not true that Ailes “has not yet been able to defend himself.” He’s done so, publicly, on multiple occasions. The problem is not that Ailes has been silenced. It’s that more and more women keep coming forward to talk about his terrible behavior toward them.
The P.C.N.R. article, which is credited to three reporters (including editor-in-chief Douglas Cunningham) and runs over 1,600 words long, continues in the same vein as it describes a recent meeting of the Putnam County Legislature where the issue of Ailes’ donation and naming rights came up. One passage reads: “Mr. Ailes, who was not in attendance to defend himself, came under hostile fire when speaker after speaker criticized him. One woman charged: ‘The name of Roger Ailes is not appropriate or acceptable for a senior center.’”
After “some 100 people attacked Ailes,” the legislature eventually voted to table the issue, thereby delaying approval of the new center’s name. In response, Roger and Elizabeth Ailes decided to call off their donation entirely. “The family said they had hoped to help the senior citizens in Philipstown but it is clear for political reasons their funding is not welcome,” the report says. “Therefore they are withdrawing the money, cancelling the contribution agreement and assigning the money to another one of their charities who can put it to use immediately.”
Roger Ailes: vindictive to the end.