Roger Ailes (1940–2017) was a U.S. news executive with extensive experience as a U.S. Republican Party political media consultant, and was President of Fox News. Ailes became prominent when he counseled Richard Nixon how to turn television into an asset rather than a liability, and continued with Ronald Reagan.Matthew Yglesias observed "It’s worth considering the different incentives of a television executive trying to maximize ratings, a political operative trying to win elections, and an ideologue trying to push public policy in a specific direction. These are not the same thing."  Writing in Newsweek, Howard Fineman suggests that in 2010, Ailes is the de facto head of the U.S. Republican Party. Fineman pointed out that Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele is unpopular with the leadership, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has his hands full in the Senate, John McCain is concerned with reelection, and no politician is getting significant poll ratings. The Tea Party Movement is challenging the Republican establishment.
Politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum—which is why God created Roger Ailes. The president of Fox News is, by default, the closest thing there is to a kingmaker in Anti-Obama America. And that, in turn, makes him the de facto leader of the GOP. In a relentless (and spectacularly successful) hunt for cable ratings, Ailes has given invaluable publicity to the tea partiers, furnished tryout platforms to GOP candidates, and trained a fire hose of populist anger at the president and his allies in Congress. While Beltway Republicans wring their hands or write their tracts, Ailes has worked the countryside, using his feel for Main Street resentment to attract and give voice to this year's angriest—and most powerful—voter-viewers: those who hate the Feds, the Fed, and the Ivy League . It was Ailes who put the "party" in the tea parties by giving them a round-the-clock national stage. Next month Fox will have priority access to the National Tea Party Convention in Nashville.
The irony is that Ailes is not in the game to wield political power per se. He doesn't talk to the RNC and he can't stand most elected politicians, even the ones he puts on the air. "It's beneath him to get into politics," says a longtime friend. In his universe, the Washington equation is reversed: political power begets profits, not the other way around. But if politics is a nonstop talk show, being the head booker means you are the boss. If Fox feels Nixonian in its resentments and its sometimes shaky fealty to the facts, well, that is what Jon Stewart is for
Reiterating his motive is not political power per se, New York Times reporters described a 2008 confrontation and Rupert Murdoch, head of News Corporation, which owns Fox News. Ailes wanted to know if Murdoch wanted him to resign, but walked away with a more lucrative contract, because he was making Fox increasingly profitable. They cited Ailes' ratings success with anti-establishment anchors Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity, epecially "Fox News’s advocacy of an independent candidate in the 23rd Congressional District in upstate New York. The Republican candidate eventually withdrew." Regarding that action. “When you think about that, it’s the equivalent of the endorsement major newspapers used to provide,” said David Gergen.
- Matthew Yglesias (17 January 2010), "Politics and Ratings", Thinkprogress.org
- Howard Fineman (15 January 2009), "Life of the Party: Roger Ailes is the real head of the GOP.", Newsweek
- Tim Carr and David Arango (10 January 2010), "A Fox Chief at the Pinnacle of Media and Politics", New York Times