Politics & Policy

Roger Ailes and the Bradley Prizes

The Fox News president joins the list of honorees — conservative powerhouses every one.

Fox News president Roger Ailes doesn’t make many speeches — he usually lets the top-rated cable-news network he runs speak for him. But when he does give a talk, it’s a humdinger. 

On Wednesday night in Washington, he gave a pointed speech, interspersed with some corny humor and zingers lobbed at President Obama, that had his conservative audience cheering.

His full remarks are worth reading, but his most pointed lines referred to the mystery surrounding Obama’s actions (or inaction) on the night four Americans died in the terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. “I have come to the conclusion that even I don’t care what the president of the United States was doing that night,” Ailes told the audience gathered to see him and three other honorees receive the Bradley Foundation’s prestigious Bradley Prizes. “However, I would like to know what the commander-in-chief was doing that night.”

Ailes said the success of his network was due in large part to its willingness to cover Benghazi and similar stories “we know others will not.” 

“We covered Benghazi when four Americans were killed, even though no other network would touch the story,” Ailes recalled. “It’s an important story because it involves 200 years of our military ethos, which is: If we ask you to go out in the middle of the night and risk your life for America, we promise that we will backstop you. And try to get you out if it is humanly possible. In Benghazi, we did not do that.”

To this day, the White House hasn’t released President Obama’s schedule on the night of the attacks, and crucial questions remain about why guidelines normally employed when American personnel are under fire weren’t followed that night.

After Ailes’s remarks, no one in the audience could conclude that Fox News would forget Benghazi anytime soon, or the IRS scandals, or the controversy surrounding the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs. “I think diversity of viewpoint and emphasis is important in the media, and having Fox ensures that important issues aren’t ignored,” Pennsylvania senator Pat Toomey told me after the ceremony. 

Washington, D.C., is chock-full of dinners and award celebrations, and few are memorable. But the Bradley Prizes are different. Every year, the Milwaukee-based Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation honors the cream of the conservative crop in a ceremony at the Kennedy Center that should remind all on the right just how much talent and intellectual rigor their movement can boast. In previous years, the $250,000 prizes have been bestowed on powerhouses such as former Florida governor Jeb Bush, columnists George Will and Charles Krauthammer, former attorney general Edwin Meese, and scholars ranging from Hernando de Soto of Peru to Thomas Sowell.

This year, the foundation gave prizes to Ailes, former Republican governor of Indiana Mitch Daniels, former solicitor general and Washington super-lawyer Paul Clement, and author Yuval Levin. The prizes explicitly acknowledge the accomplishments and works of the recipients that are in accord with the mission of the Bradley Foundation: promoting limited, competent government; a dynamic marketplace for economic, intellectual, and cultural activity; and a vigorous defense of American values. Over the years, Bradley has divided its gifts into two streams: locally supporting arts and educational projects in Milwaukee — ranging from the Milwaukee Ballet to school-choice efforts — and, on the national level, supporting groups such as the Federalist Society, the Institute for Justice, and the American Enterprise Institute.

To mark the tenth anniversary of the Bradley Prizes, a who’s-who of Washington convervatism turned out, including former Virginia governor Jim Gilmore, columnist Michael Barone, former Heritage Foundation president Ed Feulner, and National Review’s Victor Davis Hanson.

The conservative movement is broad and diverse and individualistic enough that it does not have a true establishment. But to the extent that it is home to people who are widely admired and respected, it is likely that they will put in an appearance every year at the Bradley Prizes ceremony, where conservative trailblazers get the welcome they deserve. 

— John Fund is national-affairs columnist for NRO.

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