Since news broke last week that Roger Ailes, the 77-year-old former Fox News chairman and CEO, had died, there’s been a surge of memorials and personal tributes to the man who shaped the cable news landscape as we know it. Now, Monica Lewinsky published a good-bye of her own in the New York Times, remembering Ailes as a callous man who built a media empire on the back of her affair with former President Bill Clinton.
“This is not another obituary for Roger Ailes, who died last week a year after being ousted at Fox News,” Lewinsky wrote in the Times. “It is, I hope, instead an obituary for the culture he purveyed — a culture that affected me profoundly and personally.”
In 1998, only two years after Ailes had been appointed as the head of Fox News, the former White House intern’s affair with Clinton became public. “Mr. Ailes, a former Republican political operative, took the story of the affair and the trial that followed and made certain his anchors hammered it ceaselessly, 24 hours a day,” Lewinsky wrote. Suddenly, Lewinsky found herself a part of a news cycle devoted to mercilessly picking apart her character, looks, and personal life. She explained in the Times:
My family and I huddled at home, worried about my going to jail — I was the original target of Ken Starr’s investigation, threatened with 27 years for having been accused of signing a false affidavit, obstructing justice, suborning perjury and other crimes — or worse, me taking my own life.
Exploiting Lewinsky’s “personal tragedy” helped propel Fox News into the conservative media empire it is today. She wrote, “On Fox, it seemed, no rumor was too unsubstantiated, no innuendo too vile and no accusation too abhorrent.”
Lewinsky went on to point out the “irony” that Ailes “harnessed a sex scandal to build a cable juggernaut” and then was brought down by one of his own. She wrote that she hopes we’re on our way to finally getting the “fair and balanced” news that Ailes had pledged long ago.