All the best people work for Donald Trump.
Among them now, the New York Times reports, is Roger Ailes, the disgraced former CEO of Fox News who resigned last month amid proliferating accusations of sexual harassment. A former political strategist who coached Ronald Reagan in 1984 and Vice President George Bush in 1988, Ailes will help Trump ahead of the presidential debates this fall, according to three sources who spoke to the Times on the condition of anonymity.
It’s not clear whether Ailes, who received $40 million as part of his exit agreement with Fox News, is being compensated for his role. Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort (who is not being paid, it turns out) denied the veracity of initial reports that Ailes might be joining the campaign last month—a denial that was swiftly undermined by the candidate himself.
“He’s a very good person. I’ve always found him to be just a very, very good person,” Trump said of Ailes last month. (Dozens of women—including several publicly—have accused Ailes of creating a culture of systemic sexual harassment and exploitation at Fox News.) “A lot of people are thinking he’s going to run my campaign.”
“He’s been a friend of mine for a long time,” Trump said. Of course, that didn’t stop Trump from using a trove of secrets he had learned about Ailes as leverage, as Gabriel Sherman reported for New York magazine in April:
It was also thanks to some information he had gathered that Trump was able to do something that no other Republican has done before: take on Fox News. An odd bit of coincidence had given him a card to play against Fox founder Roger Ailes. In 2014, I published a biography of Ailes, which upset the famously paranoid executive. Several months before it landed in stores, Ailes fired his longtime PR adviser Brian Lewis, accusing him of being a source. During Lewis’s severance negotiations, Lewis hired Judd Burstein, a powerhouse litigator, and claimed he had “bombs” that would destroy Ailes and Fox News. That’s when Trump got involved.
“When Roger was having problems, he didn’t call 97 people, he called me,” Trump said. Burstein, it turned out, had worked for Trump briefly in the ’90s, and Ailes asked Trump to mediate. Trump ran the negotiations out of his office at Trump Tower. “Roger had lawyers, very expensive lawyers, and they couldn’t do anything. I solved the problem.” Fox paid Lewis millions to go away quietly, and Trump, I’m told, learned everything Lewis had planned to leak. If Ailes ever truly went to war against Trump, Trump would have the arsenal to launch a retaliatory strike.
In any case, campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks denied the Times’ report. “This is not accurate,” she said in a statement. “He is not advising Mr. Trump or helping with debate prep. They are longtime friends, but he has no formal or informal role in the campaign.”
The first debate is on September 26, on Long Island.