Doug Chalmers was 24 and working on his first political campaign in 1988 when he first met Roger Ailes, the veteran GOP operative and Fox News founder who died this week.
It was a U.S. Senate campaign and Chalmers and others were in Ailes’ New York office in February.
“All of a sudden a staffer comes in and says, ‘Mr. Ailes, you have a phone call,’” Chalmers, now one of the top Republican political lawyers in Georgia, said this week. “It was the vice president.”
That would be then-Vice President George H.W. Bush, who had just finished a disappointing third in the Iowa caucuses. Bush’s campaign was, Chalmers recalls, “in panic mode.”
Ailes steps out to take the call and comes back 15 minutes later. “Ailes says, ‘I just told the vice president that if he doesn’t go negative on Dole he’s going to lose New Hampshire.’”
That call led Bush to release the “straddler” ad, in which he hammered Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kansas, for being wishy-washy on taxes.
“That was the ad that ran the next day in New Hampshire and Bush won going away,” Chalmers recalls.
Chalmers knows Ailes death came amid swirling claims of misconduct at Fox News.
“All I can tell you from my experience is he was kind and decent and very generous with his time to young political staffers,” Chalmers said. “He took me out to lunch and spent and hour and a half talking to me about my career.”
Dan McLagan has a similar story.
The veteran Republican spokesman also worked his first political campaign in 1988 as a staffer on Bush’s team.
“I was a peon in the press office but my desk was right by the offices of senior staff,” McLagan said on Facebook.
“A young George W. Bush and media consultant extraordinaire Roger Ailes literally ran me over more than once on their way Ailes’ studio a few floors down,” McLagan said.
Lee Atwater and Ailes “were clearly geniuses. Smarts and confidence came out of their pores.”
“And I was hooked on what would become my avocation,” he said. “Thank you, Roger, for inspiring me, for changing the world and for making this a freer country.”
Other Republicans also took to social media to praise the former media titan, including Bush.
Conversely, others said Ailes’ legacy is not so shiny.