When Fox News Chair Roger Ailes, amid multiple accusations of sexual harassment, resigned on the same day the Republican Party welcomed its new presidential candidate, we got reaction from several top TV news hosts who are in Cleveland covering the convention, including Jake Tapper of CNN, Shepard Smith of Fox News, Willie Geist of NBC, John Heilemann of Bloomberg and Chris Matthews of MSNBC.
AMY GOODMAN: This is “Breaking with Convention: War, Peace and the Presidency.” We’re broadcasting from Cleveland. I’m Amy Goodman. Fox News Chair Roger Ailes has resigned amidst multiple accusations of sexual harassment. Ailes is the most powerful person in conservative media. Fox has announced Rupert Murdoch will take over as chair. Many outlets are reporting Ailes will receive a $40 million severance package. This comes after former Fox News anchor Gretchen Carlson sued Ailes for sexual harassment. Fox anchor Megyn Kelly and a half-dozen other women have also accused him of harassment.
Well, on Thursday, on the floor of the convention, as well as outside before during the day, I had a chance to talk about the fall of Roger Ailes with several of the top TV news hosts across the corporate networks, including Jake Tapper of CNN, Shepard Smith of Fox News, NBC’s Willie Geist, Bloomberg’s John Heilemann. I first spoke, though, to Chris Matthews of MSNBC.
AMY GOODMAN: Can I ask you about Roger Ailes, your thought on him—
CHRIS MATTHEWS: No, no. I—
AMY GOODMAN: No?
CHRIS MATTHEWS: No, Roger used to be head of our network, MSNBC. He was head of—
AMY GOODMAN: He did?
CHRIS MATTHEWS: He was head of—well, he hired me at—when it was America’s Talking. Remember?
AMY GOODMAN: Oh, yeah.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: Oh, yeah, that’s when—that’s when I started, yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: And so, what do you think of him being out?
CHRIS MATTHEWS: No, I—look, I don’t—you know, he hired me. I worked there. You know, I think I’ll leave it up to the witnesses, and I’m sure people are being honest here.
AMY GOODMAN: Jake, would you like to say something about Roger Ailes being out? Any thoughts?
JAKE TAPPER: I mean, I don’t really—I don’t—I don’t have a—
AMY GOODMAN: What it means for Fox?
JAKE TAPPER: I don’t know what it means for Fox. I mean, Roger Ailes—I mean, the bottom line is, honestly, like he was the mastermind of that organization, and whatever you think of the politics and the business decision, it was very, very successful. I mean, it was a billion-dollar-a-year business for News Corp. So, beyond the human ramifications and the human rights ramifications, it is a very important business story. And I’m glad I work at CNN.
AMY GOODMAN: We’ve just come into the Quicken Loans Arena, and I think I see Fox News’ Shepard Smith. I want to ask him about his boss being forced out, Roger Ailes, over sexual harassment allegations. Shepard Smith, your thoughts on Mr. Ailes’ departure.
SHEPARD SMITH: I’d really rather not talk today. We’re just here to cover the convention, and we’re doing our job like we’ve done every day for 20 years. And glad to be here and be part of the process.
AMY GOODMAN: But your newsroom is going through a major change.
SHEPARD SMITH: I really don’t have anything to say. I really don’t have anything to say. But thanks so much for your interest. We’re doing great.
AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask you, Willie Geist of NBC, what you think of Roger Ailes being out.
WILLIE GEIST: You know what? I honestly don’t know the details of the story. What I do know is it’s hard to imagine a media world without him leading Fox, given what they’ve been for the last 20 years. So, I don’t know what happened there. I don’t know anything more than I read in the paper. But it’s pretty shocking.
AMY GOODMAN: How do you think he’s shaped the media?
WILLIE GEIST: Well, he turned the cable news network into something that gave a voice to a section of the country that thought it never had a voice in the media. And I think, politically, he was able to help candidates, help a party, help a movement, help an ideology. So, it makes probably the most powerful guy in the media.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you think there’s an interesting convergence of Roger Ailes out, one of the most powerful people in the most conservative network, and what’s happening within the Republican Party here?
WILLIE GEIST: I will tell you this: It’s a remarkable week, when you have Donald Trump becoming the leader of the Republican Party and Roger Ailes leaving as the leader of Fox News. Those are two earth-shaking things that happened in the space of about 24 hours. It’s pretty incredible.
AMY GOODMAN: John Heilemann, can I ask you a question?
JOHN HEILEMANN: Hi. Depends on what it is.
AMY GOODMAN: My name’s Amy Goodman from Democracy Now!
JOHN HEILEMANN: Hi. How’s it going?
AMY GOODMAN: Hi, good. So, what do you think of Roger Ailes being out?
JOHN HEILEMANN: I think that in the world of conservative politics, the fact that the Republican Party is nominating Donald Trump and the fact that Roger Ailes is out of Fox News on the same day is like, you know, a tectonic shift in our world. Both of them were almost unimaginable, you know, a year ago. You know, Donald Trump was not a Republican two years ago. He doesn’t believe in a lot of the things that most Republicans believe in. Roger Ailes has been, in some ways, the most powerful Republican in the country for three decades, four decades.
AMY GOODMAN: From Nixon to Reagan to George H.W. Bush and, of course, beyond.
JOHN HEILEMANN: Yes. And so, we’re looking at a new world, which, you know, it’s, in a way, exciting, in the sense that it opens up the doors to that which is unpredictable. Fox News could become a much more conventional network under any of the very conventional, very experienced, very professional, but much more conventional television executives who are likely to take over that network. And—
AMY GOODMAN: Isn’t Rupert Murdoch taking over right now?
JOHN HEILEMANN: Well, Rupert Murdoch is taking over as interim CEO. But Rupert Murdoch will not be running Fox News three months from now. So, you know, there are five or six possible contenders for that job, and many of them are talented. Some are very conservative, people who were part of the conservative movement. Some of them are much more straightforward news executives. David Rhodes, the president of CBS News right now, is a guy who might get that job and is not particularly ideological at all. If they went that route, Fox News, as we know it, would be a really different thing a year from now than it is now. I make no predictions, but it’s an interesting moment.
AMY GOODMAN: And what do you think of all these women saying they were sexually harassed by Roger Ailes?
JOHN HEILEMANN: What do I think of?
AMY GOODMAN: All these women at Fox who said they were sexually harassed by Roger Ailes?
JOHN HEILEMANN: You know, I have read a lot of reporting on it. I’ve spoken to none of them. You know, there’s—clearly, the weight of it and the consistency of some of the stories as reported over generations, like women from the '60s, ’70s, ’80s, all saying—telling sort of the same story, there's kind of prima facie gravity to those stories. And you look at them, and they’re—that makes them—because they’re consistent, it makes them seem, on the surface, at least, plausible. But, you know, I’m not judge, and I’m not jury, and I’ve not spoken to any of them about it, so I can’t really make a definitive ruling. But it’s disturbing, for sure, if true.
AMY GOODMAN: That is Bloomberg’s John Heilemann; before that, NBC’s Willie Geist, Shepard Smith of Fox News, Jake Tapper of CNN and Chris Matthews of MSNBC. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org. We’re “Breaking with Convention: War, Peace and the Presidency.” We were speaking to them on the floor of the Quicken Loans Arena.