Roger Ailes, who basically created the Fox News Channel, is the subject of two major profiles which have gotten a lot of buzz.
- “The Elephant in the Green Room,” by Gabriel Sherman, published on May 22 by New York magazine.
- “How Roger Ailes Built the Fox News Fear Factory,” by Tim Dickinson in the June 9 issue of Rolling Stone.
These are very interesting, and very lengthy, articles. You learn a lot about Roger Ailes and Fox News. These are not articles that Ailes would appreciate, and he didn’t contribute to them. They focus more on the partisanship of Fox News, which is a reflection of Ailes. That Fox News is a partisan network is nothing new; it’s so blatant that I don’t hear anyone defending Fox as an independent news source. But considering FNC’s influence, it’s interesting seeing how things have evolved over the years, and how people within Fox–and parent company News Corp–view Ailes and his creation.
Here are some of the things I learned.
- A Republican close to Ailes: “Roger is worried about the future of the country. He thinks the election of Obama is a disaster. He thinks Palin is an idiot. He thinks she’s stupid. He helped boost her up. People like Sarah Palin haven’t elevated the conservative movement.
- Ailes grew to have doubts about Sarah Palin’s political instincts, and considered her a loose cannon. When her use of crosshairs was strongly criticized after the shooting of Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson, Palin felt she was being singled out and wanted to fight back. But Ailes told her to stay out of it, and not do anything to interfere with the memorial service. But Palin ignored his advice and released her “blood libel” video the next morning. Ailes wasn’t happy.
- When Ailes learned that Rupert Murdoch was thinking of endorsing Obama, Ailes threatened to quit.
- Ailes invited Chris Christie and Rush Limbaugh to a diner at his home, so he and Rush could talk to Christie about running for President. Christie said no.
- Ailes is paranoid. He’s convinced that Al Qaeda wants to assassinate him. He has an aggressive security detail everywhere he goes, carries a concealed weapon, and installed bomb-proof glass in his office windows. He bought up homes around his country home in New Jersey, leaving them empty to provide a wider security perimeter. A monitor on his office desk enables him to view any activity outside his closed door.
- Once, after observing a dark-skinned man in what Ailes perceived to be Muslim garb, he put Fox News on lockdown. It was just the janitor.
- Dickinson traced back over Ailes long career in TV and politics, showing how he continually tried to blur the lines between partisan politics and true journalism. Throughout his career he has proven himself to be ruthless and without scruples.
- When Ailes became head of Fox News, he launched a purge of the existing staffers at Fox News, figuring out who were liberals and getting rid of them. If a staffer had worked at one of the major news networks, he forced them to defend working there.
- People at Fox are careful about what they say, lest they be heard saying anything that doesn’t support the Fox News partisan agenda. A former exec with News Corp said, “It’s like the Soviet Union or China. People are always looking over their shoulders. There are people who turn people in.”
- Rupert Murdoch’s family, who hold leadership positions throughout News Corp., can’t stand Roger Ailes. Matthew Freud, Murdoch’s son-in-law, told reporters, “I am by no means alone within the family or the company in being ashamed and sickened by Roger Ailes’s horrendous and sustained disregard of the journalistic standards that News Corporation, its founder, and every other global media business aspires to.”
- Michael Wolff, a Murdoch biographer, said, “Rupert is surrounded by people who regularly, if not moment to moment, tell him how horrifying and dastardly Roger is.”