Karem Alsina, a makeup artist formerly employed by Fox News, recently shared a memory of her time at the network with New York Magazine’s Gabriel Sherman. The women anchors of Fox, Alsina recalled, would sometimes come to see her before they went to private meetings with Roger Ailes—the man who, until last year, was Fox’s chairman and CEO. “They would say, ‘I’m going to see Roger, gotta look beautiful!’” Alsina recalled. She also recalled this: “One of them came back down after a meeting, and the makeup on her nose and chin was gone.”
Ailes, who died this week at the age of 77, leaves a lasting legacy in American politics. He founded Fox News. Fox News, in turn, changed everything. Politics as entertainment; news that is stridently partisan and unapologetically populist; the careers of, among so many others, Megyn Kelly and Bill O’Reilly and Carlsons both Gretchen and Tucker; the presidency of Donald J. Trump—Ailes was responsible, in some way, for all of that. He leaves behind a political environment, and a nation, that have been permanently altered under his vision.
Ailes has another legacy, though, and it’s the one Karem Alsina suggested when she recalled her time preparing the women to meet with their boss: Ailes’s alleged pattern of sexual harassment—and, you could also argue, psychological manipulation—of his employees. He was accused of it by more than two dozen women, some anonymous, some named, some through lawsuits, some through testimony to the media. The allegations included not just direct harassment, but also surveillance, smear campaigns, hush money, and a general culture of misogyny at the network that claimed to be the only source of “fair & balanced” news in a nation rife with liberalism. Ailes vehemently denied the allegations. But there were so many women. They had so many stories—all unique, yet all troublingly similar. In July of 2016, under pressure from Rupert Murdoch and, more notably, Murdoch’s sons, Ailes resigned. He received $40 million from Fox as part of his exit agreement.