This morning, Gizmodo filed a lawsuit against the FBI seeking access to any files it holds on Roger Ailes, the one-time chief executive of Fox News.
Gizmodo sought access to the records under the Freedom of Information Act on May 18, the day Ailes was found dead in his Palm Beach home due to a traumatic brain injury aggravated by his hemophilia. As one the most influential and controversial political figures of his era, we believe these files are likely to exist. The FBI failed to provide or formally deny access to the records within the time period allowed under the federal statute. Needless to say, we’d really like to read them.
Depending on whom you ask, Ailes either cultivated or destroyed American conservative politics. After humble beginnings in an abusive blue-collar home in Warren, Ohio, he grew to become a fixture in the White House by lending his media expertise to presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush. For more than a decade, he reigned over what became the most-watched network in cable news history, serving to more than 2 million Americans daily his own brand of divisive, vitriolic and often racially-charged commentary.
As the story goes, President Obama once addressed him as “the most powerful man in the world.” Ailes replied back coolly: “Don’t believe what you read, Mr. President. I started those rumors myself.” (By another account, Ailes twisted Obama’s words. He reportedly called him, “the most powerful man in media.”)
But his achievements will forever be overshadowed by the accusations of sexual harassment, coercion, psychological torture, blackmail, and surveillance of his employees that ultimately led to his downfall. Given the seriousness of the allegations raised by more than a half dozen women, he naturally found a home on the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, whom he’d gifted years before with a weekly segment on the Fox and Friends morning show.
There will be no justice for Ailes or his accusers. His death saw to that. But we can, perhaps, learn something we didn’t already know about the man who built a media empire before burning himself to the ground, if only the FBI would kindly hand over those records.
The complaint naming the FBI as defendant was filed Tuesday in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York by the Law Office of Daniel R. Novack. You can view a copy below.