Roger Ailes

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This article is part of the Tobacco portal on Sourcewatch funded from 2006 - 2009 by the American Legacy Foundation.

Roger Eugene Ailes is the chairman of Fox News Channel and is Chairman of Fox Television Stations.

Career In PR & Politics

Ailes began his career in television as a production assistant at Cleveland's KYW-TV, the station that launched the Mike Douglas Show, a popular daytime talk and variety show of the 1960s. At age 28, Ailes became the show's producer. He met Richard Nixon for the first time when Nixon appeared as a guest on the Douglas show, beginning the relationship that led to Ailes' hiring as a media consultant for Nixon's 1968 presidential campaign.[1]

Ailes founded Ailes Communications in New York which he owned between 1970 and 1992 which is described in his biographical note accompanying tesimony to the Energy and Commerce Committee as "a diversified communications consulting company whose clients included three U.S. Presidents, several senators and governors, as well as Fortune 500 CEO's". [1]

Ailes political work has included:

Working For Big Tobacco

When a coalition of tobacco control groups, Coalition for a Healthy California promoted Proposition 99 which proposed a 25 cents a pack increase in tobacco tax, Ailes was called on in July 1988 to oversee what was to be a $20 million campaign for the tobacco industry.

Californians Against Unfair Tax Increases (CAUTI) was overwhelmingly underwritten by Philip Morris and R.J. Reynolds. [2]

The tobacco industry strategy was to promote its claims that the tax increase was unfair and unnecessary government interference, that rich doctors would be the beneficiaries and that high taxes would encourage increased smuggling and place additional demands on police.

Ailes Communications earned just over $1,000,000 in commission on the campaign. [3]

Despite Ailes' best efforts, the tobacco industry was defeated. "Although we were not successful, the CAUTI campaign moved an extremely large number of voters to our position. While some television spots were more persuasive than others, the campaign never appeared to make much headway with the large number of people who are extremely anti-smoking," Ailes Communications final report stated. [4]

In the aftermath of victories in California and other states, the following year politicians began unveiling proposals to further restrict tobacco industry promotion and costs. "The anti-smoking zealots tried first to throw water in everybody's face … now they're throwing legislation," Ailes told one reporter. [5]

Acoording to his biographical profile to the Energy and Commerce Committee "in 1992, Ailes retired completely from political and corporate consulting to return full-time to television". [6]

Internal Philip Morris documents, however, reveal Ailes advised the company until at least 1994. A memo from PM's Washington office to head office providing an outline of supplementary monthly budget expenditures on consultants, listed "Roger Ailes contract" with a figure of $15,000 under the heading "general media strategy". [7]

In May 1993, PM's Craig Fuller sent a memo, titled "Firing Line show on Sin Taxes", to his colleagues. "I think we should look into this. Roger Ailes and I have talked about running ads with a coalition we will form ... one name "Coalition for Fair Funding of Health Care." We might get the group … with whatever name … to help fund the show. It is definitely worth thinking about and looking at more closely". (PM is the 'we' referred to in the note). [8]

(See Americans for Tax Reform and Defeating Clinton's healthcare plan for more details on the PM campaign to defeat proposals to fund an expanded health care plan with an increase in the tobacco excise rate.)

A few weeks later ths Vice President of Philip Morris Corporate Affairs, Ellen Merlo, sent a letter to Ailes as Chairman of Ailes Communications informing him of the results of some market research on smoking. "Suffice it to say the percentages of those embarrassed about smoking and the militant antis are shifting very rapidly so that we are losing support," she glumly reported.[9]

Internal Philip Morris documents reveal that Ailes' work for Philip Morris continued until at least the end of June 1994. A June 1994 e-mail to Craig Fuller canvassing possible speakers for a meeting the following month, Thomas Collamore wrote "(some possibilities: Roger Ailes who we pay 5k a month to be available;" before suggesting other possibilities.[10]

Ailes role in the media industry includes:

  • in 1991 persuading "a syndicator to bring Rush Limbaugh from radio to television and became executive producer of the late-night show";
  • In 1993 was appointed President of NBC's cable channel CNBC;
  • introduced NBC cable channel, America's Talking in 1994;
  • in January 1996 was appointed as chief executive officer of Fox News and the FOX News Channel and, according to his biographical note, "also serves as a senior advisor to Rupert Murdoch, Chairman and CEO of the News Corporation Limited".

Articles and resources


  1. Museum of Broadcast Communications Roger Ailes, accessed October 23, 2009

Related SourceWatch articles

External resources

External articles

By Roger Ailes

Articles & Commentary about Ailes

2005 to present
Before 2005

Documents from UCSF tobacco archives

Wikipedia also has an article on Roger Ailes. This article may use content from the Wikipedia article under the terms of the GFDL.