CLEVELAND — Gov. Terry Branstad expressed surprise and disappointment Wednesday over sexual harassment allegations against embattled Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes, saying he saw no problems when Ailes served as his media consultant during the governor’s re-election bids in 1986 and 1990.
Ailes, 76, has denied allegations in a lawsuit brought by a former Fox anchor Gretchen Carlson that are under review by 21st Century Fox officials. But there were media reports Wednesday that the news executive might be in talks with the cable network’s parent company to sever the relationship.
Multiple media reports also say another Fox News personality, Megyn Kelly, who was the target last fall of caustic remarks by Donald Trump, has told investigators Ailes sexually harassed her.
“It kind of surprises me. I’m not going to try to judge on that,” said Branstad, who credited Ailes with improving his skills as a political candidate and producing effective campaign advertisements for him. Among them were the “Junk Bond Junkins” spots Ailes came up with to help Branstad defeat Democrat Lowell Junkins in 1986.
“I have the greatest respect for Roger Ailes. He did a phenomenal job for me,” Branstad told reporters Wednesday at a GOP National Convention delegate breakfast meeting. “He had a great sense of humor. He was a very creative guy. He knew how to communicate with the common people very effectively.”
Branstad recalled going to Ailes’ New York studio, where the media consultant would conduct a “pepper drill” — putting Branstad in a debate setting and directing a barrage of “all kinds of mean questions at you.” Afterward, Ailes would play back video to show the governor weaknesses in his “body language and facial expressions” and give him advice.
“I’m just saying that certainly, the experience we had with him was very positive and he was very helpful and I learned a lot just working with him,” said Branstad, now serving his sixth term as Iowa governor. “I think it’s made me a better communicator.”
ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
Branstad, who paid Ailes a monthly fee and a bonus for winning a campaign, said he never encountered any situation of harassment of any kind by Ailes during the time he and his staff worked with him.
Branstad said he was “disappointed” by the allegations, but told Iowa reporters: “I’m not going to place any judgment on this, but I just know that he’s a very talented man who has done a lot certainly for the conservative movement and building Fox News. Fox News has become a real force to be reckoned with in terms of media in this country.”