For all the complaining that conservative commentators and anchors on Fox News do about “liberal Hollywood,” the network’s broadcasts have been filled with celebrities for years… just not necessarily the most talented or popular ones.
Fox News founder Roger Ailes, who died Wednesday night just months after being fired from the cable juggernaut for years of alleged sexual harassment, had a knack for media makeovers of C-list celebrities and Hollywood has-beens.
Ailes filled both his daytime and primetime hours with some of the industry's forgotten ones or stars of yesteryear who would spout fringe right hyperbole and conspiracy theories, remaking them into new conservative icons.
Here's a list of some of his successful conservative media transformations.
Best known for co-starring in “Clueless” and then a lot of short-lived TV shows and direct-to-video movies, Dash joined Fox in early 2014. As a co-host of the show “Outnumbered,” her primary job was to stir shit up and say outrageous things, a task at which she was almost too good. In 2015, she said on air that President Barack Obama “could give a shit” about Islamic terrorism, which earned her a two week suspension (she was unapologetic”). A year later, starting on “Fox and Friends,” she went on an extended campaign against black-focused outlets like BET, accusing them of hurting cultural integration. Her contract was not renewed earlier this year, ending a tumultuous three-year run.
Forever blessed with the cachet of being an Oscar-winner, Voight provides a useful conservative counterpunch to the humanitarianism of his daughter, Angelina Jolie. He also can claim the mantle of wisened former liberal, as he worked for Democratic candidates and even supported South American communist leaders with Jane Fonda. By the early 2000s he was disavowing his past activism, and began appearing on Fox News in 2004. He was a huge Trump supporter in this past election — he attended the inauguration — and chastises Hollywood liberals regularly. He’s less extreme in his rhetoric than many people on this list, but adds some gravitas to the roster.
He's famous for his tongue, which has unleashed hot conservative takes for years now. Originally from Israel, he takes a hardline against Muslim nations, but also likes to poke at women, African Americans, and -- you guessed it -- Hollywood liberals. He also hated Obamacare, and suggested that it took away people’s god-given freedoms. His frequent Fox appearances give him a big platform to let his incendiary views fly.
Long known as an “outdoorsman” and gun enthusiast, Nugent’s backwoods, racist right wing extremism has become a go-to shock tactic for Fox News. He played guitar on stage with then-Fox host Glenn Beck in 2009 during early Tea Party rallies, which was one of the most civil things he’s done on stage; back in 2007, he told Barack Obama to “suck on my machine gun” and told then-Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm to “kiss my ass.” He’s flirted with runs for office a few times, but he mostly just appears on Fox to chastise activists who work on behalf of animal rights, gun control, race equality, and sanity.
A legendary pro-wrestler, James Brian Hellwig left the wrestling ring to throw elbows on the political circuit. He began as a motivational speaker in the late ‘90s — that was short-lived — and then transitioned to writing books and making appearances on Fox News. He kept a blog on which he said insane things, which were then amplified by his Fox spots; in 2005, he said that maybe Hurricane Katrina was a good thing (or at least that New Orleans was no great loss) and that “queering don’t make the world go round,” which was as confusing as it was offensive. He died in 2014.
Here’s a hard truth: Sure, Donald Trump initially got his fourth wind by starring on NBC’s “The Apprentice,” but his repeated appearances on Fox News gave him political legitimacy (or something like it). He spent years questioning President Obama’s citizenship and birth certificate, and Fox delighted in putting him on air to spout out those accusations and whatever else he wanted to say. By injecting him so directly into the political conversation, and the homes of millions of viewers watching the news, Fox turned Trump from a B-list reality star to a real political candidate — and profited as he rose to the top.