Roger Ailes died a little over two years ago, in May of 2017. Ten months earlier, in July of 2016, he was forced out as head of Fox News, amid several accusations of sexual harassment, some dating back to the 1960’s, when he was producing The Mike Douglas Show.
In the recently concluded Showtime limited series, The Loudest Voice, shows how he built the network up from nothing. An empty storefront into the most watched cable news network, even three years after he was let go. What wasn’t covered was how it all started.
In the ever continuing series “It all goes back to Nixon,” here’s the latest chapter.
In 1967, Nixon was still in political limbo. He had lost the presidency in 1960 and the California Governor’s race in ’62, emoting the famous “you won’t have Dick Nixon to kick around anymore” line. He campaigned, nominally, for Goldwater in ’64 and other Republicans in 1966.
His return from exile began not in front of the TV, where Nixon, even on his best days looked worse than Ray Milland in The Lost Weekend (“I was born with five o’clock shadow,” he once mused), but behind it.
Mike Douglas was a 1950’s crooner in the style of Andy Williams and Perry Como. In 1961, he was hired to start a daily talk show in Cleveland. After two years locally, the show was syndicated by Westinghouse Television, relocated to Philadelphia and eventually went nationwide by 1965. Its producer from ‘65–68 was Roger Ailes.
In 1967, Ailes was 27, five years removed from Ohio University in Athens. He was the wunderkind of television, as TMDS had gained an audience that made it the number one daytime talk show for most of its run. There was even talk of taking on Johnny Carson, but you just didn’t do that.
Nixon was, by the time he appeared on the show, plotting his political comeback. He saw cracks in Lyndon Johnson’s support as the Vietnam War continued to escalate. The Great Society programs weren’t getting much help in Congress and the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Act had made for the perfect storm for the perfect candidate.
Nixon and Ailes were brothers from another mother. Both were paranoid, resentful and fearful of a changing America. So, in the ‘Green Room,’ before his appearance, a rueful Nixon told Ailes “it’s too bad that politicians have to use this contraption to win elections.” To which Ailes replied, “if you don’t accept television and use it to your advantage, you’ll…