“It’s not a company, it’s a cult around him,” said Gabriel Sherman, talking about Roger Ailes and Fox News to a packed room in Soho Tuesday night.
Sherman had come to New America NYC to discuss The Loudest Voice in the Room, his controversial book about Roger Ailes and how he created one of America’s most successful media empires. Ailes is a brilliant political consultant who built a news organization out of fear, said Sherman. And he argues that atmosphere informs Fox’s ethics and reporting at every level, from top anchors like Shep Smith to low level producers.
“They live in terror of him, but they hang on his every word,” he said. “People are terrified to speak his name or speak ill of him because they’re worried that the phones are tapped.”
He had delved deep into every aspect of Ailes’ life. He began with Ailes’ childhood in working class Ohio, then his career beginnings as a news producer and political consultant, and finally his trials and tribulations creating Fox. The narrative was dramatic and compelling, whether it was about how Fox chooses women like Megyn Kelly as anchors (“Ailes wants women who have that Hitchcock look, like they’re almost in danger,”) or how Ailes has survived as a media mogul (“I think this is what makes Ailes such an enduring character: his ability to walk away from crises and land on his feet.”)
Sherman interviewed more than 600 people for the book, which took him nearly three years to report. In the face of criticism from the New York Times, Breitbart News and Ailes himself, Sherman has defended his research and insisted that over 2,000 hours of fact-checking went into the expose.