Roger Ailes and the rise of Fox News | Media | The Guardian Ailes found his calling in television. He proved to be a TV wunderkind, charting a meteoric rise to executive producer by the age of 25. Ailes had an uncanny feel for stagecraft and how to make conversational performances pop on live television. But it was behind the scenes at Mike Douglas in 1967 that Ailes met the man who would set him on his path as the greatest political operative of his generation: Richard Milhous Nixon. The former vice-president – whose stilted and sweaty debate performance against John F Kennedy had helped doom his presidential bid in 1960 – was on a media tour to rehabilitate his image. Waiting with Nixon in his office before the show, Ailes needled his powerful guest. "The camera doesn't like you," he said. Nixon wasn't pleased. "It's a shame a man has to use gimmicks like television to get elected," he grumbled. "Television is not a gimmick," Ailes said. "And if you think it is, you'll lose again." The exchange was a defining moment for both men. Nixon became convinced that he had met a boy genius who could market him to the American public. Ailes had fallen hard for his first candidate. He soon abandoned his high-powered job producing Mike Douglas and signed on as Nixon's "executive producer for television". For Ailes, the infatuation was personal – and it is telling that the man who got him into politics would prove to be one of he most paranoid and dirty campaigners in the history of American politics. "I don't know anyone else around that I would have done it for," Ailes has said, "other than Nixon."