Ex-Fox News President Roger Ailes managed to stir the pot at the 69th Emmy Awards Sunday night – even from the grave.
And if that sounds a little dark and absurd, that’s because it is.
You would’ve thought Ailes had showed up in the flesh along with Reese Witherspoon in her terrible blue Stella McCartney blazer dress and Oprah in her poorly thought out white tux that would’ve been perfect for Stedman or Sunday brunch but a dull choice for the glitzy Emmys.
But no. Organizers thought it would be fun to include the late Ailes in its “In Memoriam” feature in which people — presumably actors or veterans of the entertainment industry — who have died get honored.
Fox News forced Ailes to resign in July, 2016 after host Gretchen Carlson slapped him with a sexual harassment lawsuit and ultimately reeled in $20 million. Until then, Ailes was the founder and CEO of Fox News and worked there for 21 years.
So any way you want to cut it — she won. He lost. There were other allegations of sexual harassment against Ailes — BuzzFeed puts the number at 20 women. Ailes wouldn’t live long enough to answer to them. He died in May, 2017, approximately 10 months after Fox News’s parent company 21st Century Fox showed him the door.
At which point he took his collection of guns and left the building.
Washingtonians aren’t known for their humor. But on Sunday night, the political media chattering class was in a particularly foul mood about the Emmys honoring Ailes.
Hollywood wasn’t thrilled either.
Freelance writer Yashar Ali, of ex-FNCer Eric Bolling lewd pic fame, was particularly incensed by Ailes sneaking a coveted spot in that Memoriam feature.
“The Emmys including Roger Ailes in the in memoriam segment was interesting to say the least. They always leave people out..why include him?” he asked rhetorically on Twitter. “Emmys did not include Frank Vincent, Dick Gregory, Harry Dean Stanton, or Charlie Murphy but don’t fret, they made room for Roger Ailes! They also left out Erin Moran, who played Joanie on ‘Happy Days’ and ‘Joanie Loves Chachi’ – but Roger Ailes was in the segment.”
Robert George, who sits on the New York Daily News‘ Editorial Board, tried to argue with Ali, saying, “He built one of the most successful networks of the last 25 years. Love it or hate it, that’s fact. #Emmy2017.”
Ali wasn’t having it. In response, he asked, “Should Bill Cosby be honored when he dies?”
When the Ailes portion rolled, applause in the room came to a standstill.
“We will be loving Roger Ailes always? Really?” questioned Andy Lassner, executive producer of The Ellen Show. And blogger Jennifer D. Laws: “They could have left Roger Ailes ass outta the in memoriam and added Charlie Murphy and Dick Gregory.”
Despite all the allegations that came crashing down around Ailes when 21st Century Fox forced him out, when he died, many unexpected journalists emerged to express touching memories of how Ailes had helped them in their careers.
There was CNN’s Brooke Baldwin; MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell; MSNBC’s JIKA (the MSNBC duo known as Joe Scarborough and his fiancée Mika Brzezinski); and the biggest surprise of them all – MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow.
In May, Maddow appeared on Howard Stern. She called Ailes a mentor.
“…He was gracious and constructive and gave me some interesting stuff to think about. …He was generous to me. …He was a friend,” she told Howard.
She also called the sexual harassment allegations against him “serious” and wasn’t in touch with him after that news broke.
Former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci was among the few voices that publicly defended the Emmys decision to include Ailes. Who doesn’t want a post-death defense from The Mooch?
“Roger was actually a very good guy — a great businessman and a great entrepreneur,” Scaramucci said while guest hosting TMZ Monday. “Each and every one of us has a good side and a bad side.”
Ronan Farrow, an investigative reporter for NBC and famed son of Mia Farrow, remarked with a GIF. He wrote, “When Roger Ailes gets prominent billing in the In Memoriam montage,” and featured an obese woman shaking her head and her multiple chins no.
Mark Harris, a journalist for Vulture, summed up the collective reaction to Ailes landing on the list.
“Touching shoutout to Roger Ailes in hell during the Emmys In Memoriam montage,” he wrote.
Even the wife of California’s Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, Jen Siebel Newsom, wasn’t pleased.
“Hey #Emmys, please don’t put Roger Ailes on the same list as Gwen Ifill, ever. #NotBuyingIt,” she wrote.
Neither was film producer Adam Best who wrote, “Roger Ailes is probably the person most responsible for the current toxicity of our political landscape. #Emmys shouldn’t have honored him.”
On a random note about Ailes, Splinter News‘ Libby Watson wrote about NYT reporter Glenn Thrush‘s monumental decision to leave Twitter on Monday at midnight.
“Just spent 10 minutes searching my own tweets bc I couldn’t remember why Glenn Thrush blocked me,” she wrote. “It was because I told him to fuck off after he tweeted about ‘grave dancing’ when Roger Ailes died. Not worth it tbh.”
Bess Kalb, who writes for ABC’s “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”, was annoyed that the Emmys threw President Trump a bone, despite sticking daggers in him for much of the show. “I can’t believe this show completely uncritically featured Trump cronies Roger Ailes and Sean Spicer and Susan Sarandon. #Emmys,” she wrote.
Vanity Fair‘s Gabe Sherman, who wrote the unauthorized biography of the Fox News Chairman, The Loudest Voice In The Room: How the Brilliant, Bombastic Roger Ailes Built Fox News – and Divided a Country, said he was in an altered state of reality over Ailes being included in the Memoriam feature.
“Beyond shocked Emmys would honor Ailes in memoriam,” he wrote. “What message does it send to women (and men)?”
There’s no taking it back. The inconsolable media and Hollywood writers will have to take their outrage into another day.
And Ailes will keep on being dead.