Zev Chafets’ Roger Ailes’ Book Excerpted…
Vanity Fair has exerpts from Zev Chafets’ upcoming book on Roger Ailes…
For months, Roger Ailes and I had been meeting regularly at Fox News headquarters in Midtown Manhattan, at his home in Putnam County, and at public and private gatherings. In that time I got a closer look at Roger Ailes than any journalist who doesn’t work for him ever has. He is plainspoken, wryly profane, caustic, and above all competitive, whether he is relating how he told NBC not to name its cable channel MSNBC (“M.S. is a damn disease”) or, in an appearance before a student audience, trying to recall the name of a CNN anchor “named after a prison.” (Soledad O’Brien.) Ailes, in his years as a political consultant, created images for a living, and his own narrative is constructed from the sturdy materials of American mythology. In our first meeting, he said he had dug ditches as a kid and would be happy to go back to it if the whole media-empire thing ever fell apart. Ailes is no more likely than I am to dig ditches (and a lot less likely to need to), but I got his point. He is a blue-collar guy from a factory town in Ohio who has stayed close to his roots. After I had known him for a while I asked what he would do if he were president of the United States. He said that he would sign no legislation, create no new regulations, and allow the country to return to its natural, best self, which he locates, with modest social amendments, somewhere in midwestern America circa 1955.
Ailes and Rupert Murdoch are very respectful of each other. Ailes credits Murdoch with realizing that there was a niche audience (“half the country,” as Charles Krauthammer, a Fox contributor, drily put it) for a cable news network with a conservative perspective. Murdoch, for his part, assured me that he doesn’t dictate editorial decisions. “I defer to Roger,” he said. “I have ideas that Roger can accept or not. As long as things are going well … ”
One moment of tension occurred in 2010, when Matthew Freud, the husband of Murdoch’s daughter Elisabeth and a powerful British public-relations executive, told The New York Times that “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.” A spokesman for Murdoch replied that his son-in-law had been speaking for himself, and that Murdoch was “proud of Roger Ailes and Fox News.” Ailes mocked Freud in an interview in the Los Angeles Times, saying he couldn’t pick the British flack out of a lineup and suggesting that he (a descendant of Sigmund Freud’s) “needed to see a psychiatrist.”
Murdoch often drops by Ailes’s office to joke and gossip about politics. “Roger and I have a close personal friendship,” he told me. Ailes agrees—up to a point.
“Does Rupert like me? I think so, but it doesn’t matter. When I go up to the magic room in the sky every three months, if my numbers are right, I get to live. If not, I’m killed. Our relationship isn’t about love—it’s about arithmetic. Survival means hitting your numbers. I’ve met or exceeded mine in 56 straight quarters. The reason is: I treat Rupert’s money like it is mine.”