“He wasn’t perfect, but Roger Ailes was my friend & I loved him,” Bush tweeted. “Not sure I would have been President w/o his great talent, loyal help. RIP.”
Bush’s positive words stood out amid a swell of criticism over Ailes’ alleged sexual harassment of former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson and dozens of other female employees.
Before founding Fox News, Ailes served as a political consultant to Bush and other Republican presidents. According to Business Insider, an attack ad Ailes made for Bush’s 1988 presidential campaign is widely credited with helping secure Bush’s victory.
Bush immediately faced some blowback over his tweet, with several people on social media expressing their respect for the former president but saying he was wrong to praise Ailes.
Bush wasn’t the only one to pay homage to Ailes. Following the news of his death at 77, former colleagues and journalists took to social media to mourn the former CEO.
Others spoke out against Ailes and in support of the women who have claimed he sexually harassed them.
Ailes left the Fox network in July after Carlson filed suit against him, claiming sexual harassment and retaliation. At the time, he denied Carlson’s accusations of harassment. In September, a source told PEOPLE the former Fox News host had reached a settlement with Ailes and she was expected to receive $20 million.
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After Carlson went public with her allegations, six more women – four of whom remained anonymous – came forward claiming they’d been similarly harassed by Ailes over multiple decades. Months later, former Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly also accused Ailes of repeatedly sexually harassing her in a chapter from her memoir Settle for More.