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Roger Ailes on His Apprentices and His Legacy: ‘I Don’t Care About My Legacy. It’s Too Late’

Fmr NYC Mayor David Dinkins, FNC Chairman Roger Ailes and the Rev. Jesse Jackson at the Ailes Apprenticeship Program graduation

This morning a 12th floor studio at Fox News Channel hosted the commencement ceremony of the Ailes Apprenticeship Program. Established by Fox News co-founder and chairman Roger Ailes in 2003, the program selects a small, diverse group of candidates and puts them through the rigors of working in a news environment, paring them with seasoned mentors. And unlike Donald Trump‘s apprentices, at the end of the year-long program, all Ailes apprentices get hired.

Today’s ceremony was emceed by FNC anchor Bill Hemmer and the keynote speaker was the Rev. Jesse Jackson who admitted, “I’m quite nervous. I’m a lamb and I’ve come to the lion,” as he looked towards Ailes. Ailes tells TVNewser he’s known Jackson for decades and has kept up “a backchannel conversation for years.”

Jackson called Ailes, “a tough-minded, caring individual,” who is “preparing leaders for the diverse world in which we live.”

Speakers included world-renowned mathematician, Mexico City-born Hewlett-Packard researcher Dr. Pano Santos talked about his mentors: Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard; and Capt. Gail Harris who at her retirement was the highest-ranking African-American woman in the U.S. Navy told the four graduates they need to now be mentors for the next generation. Also participating, Fox News anchor Harris Faulkner who joked, “if you have not been inspired by today’s remarks, you must be sleeping.”

After the ceremony, we spent a half hour in Ailes office talking about a range of issues including election night, his re-signing with Fox News, whether he entertained any offers from CNN for their top job and about what the Apprenticeship Program means for his legacy.

“I don’t care about my legacy,” Ailes says. “It’s too late. My enemies will create it and they’ll push it. What I care about however… what I want to do is expand” the program. “If every company did this, could you imagine what that’d do to minority unemployment and success?”

More from our Q&A after the jump, and in subsequent posts…

TVNewser: What do you hope the Ailes Apprenticeship Program says about your legacy?

Ailes: I don’t care about my legacy. It’s too late. My enemies will create it and they’ll push it. What I care about however, what I want to do is expand… if every company did this, could you imagine what that’d do to minority unemployment and success? So what I’m trying to do, by having the three speakers that I had, we had a Hispanic astronaut last time, is that they take it out to companies and says ‘You need a program like that Ailes program in New York.’ What I’d like to do is set up teams to take them out and show them how to set this up and make it work and so if anything comes out of it at all, I hope that it spreads, because you know it’s not a quota system, it’s an earned system.

The problem with these kids is they don’t have access. They don’t have the same access and this program tries to get around that issue. Give them somebody inside they can deal with. You know, Frankie Cortes (an Ailes Apprentice graduate) runs Fox News Latino, he can hire whoever he wants. I don’t know how many people he’s hired, he’s probably hired 30 people. That’s the difference that we make.

Legacy? Let me tell you, no one would ever believe I did it.

TVNewser: Why do you think that is?

Ailes: It’s the Roger Ailes playbook. They all read each other’s shit and buy it, and report it. They don’t do any original reporting. They don’t know who I am or what I do. Or they don’t care to talk about it. Because it’s a lot easier, as you know, to create a cartoon character and reinforce it every time. And if they’re outside the norm of the cartoon character, they get worried, they get insecure. Nobody wants to be in a position of defending anything Fox might do for minorities. I guarantee you for all of the talk at NBC or CNBC, I worked there, or MSNBC. They’re not doing anything. What they want to do is go on the air and tell you how good they are. I don’t care about that. That isn’t the point of this. You look at those kids’ faces. That’s the point of this. They are so excited. It’s interesting, when we give them a check and then we give them a little certificate. You know what means most to them? The certificate. Because for many of them, that’s the first time they have something to hang on the wall.

Roger Ailes with 2012 Apprentices Crystal Berger, Mildress Santana, Carolina Sanchez and Queenette Karikari

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