Why would the esteemed Ohio University host a talk by the likes of Roger Ailes? Maybe we should ask one of the talk’s patrons, Charles Koch.
Ailes, of Fox News fame, is giving his talk today. The guy who invited him says the point was to get “perhaps the most influential newsman in America” to spark a discussion about “free speech and the media,” particularly given OU’s “first-rate school of journalism.” But Roger Ailes isn’t a newsman and doesn’t do journalism. He does political advocacy that’s (very) thinly disguised as journalism. As Eric Boehlert of Media Matters says, “places of higher learning shouldn’t help perpetuate the Fox myth while turning a blind eye to the lasting damage Ailes’s enterprise is doing to journalism and to our national discourse.”
Might this act of selling out have something to do with the fact that the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation serves as an underwriter of the George Washington Forum, which is the OU group hosting the speech? As detailed in my film Koch Brothers Exposed, Charles Koch is a billionaire industrialist and one of the leading financiers of the American Right. He is known to meddle in educational institutions, infamously attaching strings to university donations by insisting he be able to veto a school’s hiring decisions. Students and faculty at schools like Florida State University are fighting this corruption valiantly, but the encroachment on academic integrity and freedom remains a threat.
In the case of Ohio University, the full extent of Koch’s donations to the George Washington Forum isn’t known. But we do know that Koch specifically underwrote a talk the Forum hosted by John Yoo, author of the Bush torture memos (belying Charles and his brother David’s claims that their ideological activism is restricted to economic issues). We also know that through the Forum, the Charles Koch Foundation awards grants to students “interested in studying free market ideas” under an OU professor who researches conservative politics and economics. Students applying for the grant in the past have had to write an essay about a book by libertarian Henry Hazlitt. Is it just me, or does it look like Charles Koch is paying the university to spread his right-wing ideology?
Not that Koch is the only problem. Indeed, Ailes himself is a big donor to (and alum of) Ohio University. If an institution of higher learning is willing to take money from an anti-journalist like Ailes for its communications programs, it will inevitably spread his message to students, one way or another.
Today, as Ailes takes the mic at OU, those who believe in education should redouble our efforts to stop the slow erosion of academic integrity. This erosion is reflected in the influence wielded by wealthy ideologues like Charles Koch and his political bullhorn, Roger Ailes.