The timing of the Ailes deal so soon after James and Lachlan Murdoch’s promotions, combined with the confusion over the reporting structure, raises many questions…chief of which is “How did this happen?”
What follows is a possible timeline of events based on a theory and a lack of contradictory evidence.
1. The impending news leaks out to CNBC to David Faber by a source not in Roger Ailes’ sphere of influence. At the time I said I thought Ailes had to have known this was coming because it would be playing with fire for Rupert Murdoch to not keep him in the loop. But subsequent events suggest that Ailes may not have been in the loop enough.
2. FBN puts out, by way of instructions from Ailes according to Gabriel Sherman, that Ailes would continue to report to Rupert Murdoch. The original Faber story made no mention of this so this was big news.
3. The actual announcement comes out and now it is revealed that Ailes is reporting to the Murdoch sons but will have a “special relationship” with Rupert. This isn’t a 100% repudiation of the FBN news but it’s damn close.
4. This is where we get to the speculation part of this blog post. Given what happened this morning, I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that Ailes started making noises about his displeasure with the current reporting structure. In steps Rupert who gives Roger a new deal, the news release for paints a new murky reporting structure where Ailes reports to all thee Murdochs…and therefore could circumvent both James and Lachlan if he wanted to. The alternate explanation would be the new murky reporting structure of the three headed monster is actually a PR ruse to create the illusion that James and Lachlan still have some oversight when the reality is Ailes really reports to Rupert.
If the idea of Rupert giving Ailes a new deal after a corporate tussle sounds familiar, that’s because it is. We have seen this before. It happened in the early 2000s after Ailes clashed with Lachlan.
What makes the reversal most remarkable is that, until now, Rupert always backed Ailes during his messy feuds with Murdoch’s children. Ailes’s tangles with Lachlan were legion. Not long after 9/11, Rupert gave Ailes a new contract after Ailes threatened to resign following a heated argument with Lachlan in the Fox newsroom. Four years later, Lachlan quit his job as deputy COO in charge of the Fox broadcast group after Rupert supported Ailes in a dispute over a TV show that Ailes wanted and Lachlan didn’t.
This is all just conecture. But it’s conjecture without any contradictory evidence…or at the very least conjecture based on historical precedent and the lack of a realistic alternative narrative being put forth by anyone else at the present. It walks like a duck and talks like a duck and until I see someone come out and credibly state it’s not a duck, I will continue to believe it is a duck.