The founding CEO and editorial backbone of Fox News learned how to push the buttons of millions of individuals through mass media as a political consultant. With Lee Atwater, Mr. Ailes elevated political media strategy to an art form, toppling presidential front-runner Michael Dukakis and engineering a landslide victory for George H.W. Bush with issues like the Pledge of Allegiance and crimes committed by a felon on furlough when Mr. Dukakis was governor of Massachusetts.
Mr. Ailes brought the same controversial mastery to the creation of Fox News. In an era when traditional media—like cable news shows—are struggling and scrambling for the increasingly splintered audience and competing news sources, he put Fox News apart from the pack, attracted a large audience, made “Fox News” shorthand for a political viewpoint and turned news reporting into a central issue in modern politics.