18 May 2017
Those are the words used to end a military radio transmission. Today, Roger Ailes, the man who built and led FOX News, stopped transmitting. He will be deeply missed by his lovely wife Beth, their son Zach and all my friends at FOX News Channel and FOX Business Network. I will be forever grateful for the opportunity he gave me sixteen years ago when he hired me to host War Stories. His love of history, encouragement, guidance and support turned the show into the longest running, continuously broadcast military documentary series in television history.
Asked this morning when I first met Roger, my interrogator was stunned to learn it was just before Christmas in 1986 – at the home of then Vice President George H.W. Bush. The VEEP, ignoring all the noise and fury in Washington over the so-called Iran-Contra affair, had the temerity – and kindness – to invite Admiral John Poindexter, me and our wives to his Christmas party. At the time, the Admiral and I were persona non grata in our nation’s capital. Roger was there and a photo of him [on the back of my first book, Under Fire] shows him scowling as Vice President Bush is shaking my hand at the doorway. More than two decades after the picture was taken, I asked Roger “why the long face?” The answer was classic Ailes: “I was wondering what the caption would be if the ‘pic’ showed up in the Washington Post.”
Eight months after being hired to document the events of WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and the “Cold” War with the accounts of eyewitness-participants, Roger dispatched our War Stories team to “make the first draft of history” in what is now America’s longest war. He sent us to lovely places like Afghanistan, Iraq, the Philippines and Somalia. And as always, he was paying attention. In April 2003, when another news organization reported that a Marine helicopter in which we were riding was hit by enemy fire and forced to land behind enemy lines, he called on my satellite phone to check on our well-being. Once he ascertained there were no friendly casualties he growled, “I’m glad you and Griff [Jenkins] are OK. Now remember, you’re there to report the news, not be the news.”
That’s the Roger Ailes – the Newsman – the gruff, no nonsense boss who loved and admired Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Guardsmen and Marines – that I will miss. He was generous to the Freedom Alliance Heroes Scholarship fund for the sons and daughters of military personnel killed in the line of duty. And tough as he was, he could tear-up in a minute when meeting a Gold Star mom or widow.
According to a certain hymn, “the streets of heaven are guarded by United States Marines.” As of today, there is a rough-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside newsman named Roger covering the story – fair and balanced. And he can finish every report with the sign-off, “Roger, out.”