Exclusive: TVNewser has learned talks of a cease-fire between Fox News and MSNBC, reported in both the Los Angeles Times and New York Times Friday afternoon, actually began in early 2008 and directly involved two network executives who once worked together at NBC – Roger Ailes and Jeff Zucker. We’ve also learned the meeting between GE Chairman Jeff Immelt and News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch, reported in the Times stories, came much later in the process.
Sources tell TVNewser that in early 2008, Roger Ailes approached Jeff Zucker in an off-the-record conversation. Ailes’ association with Zucker goes back to 1994, when he founded MSNBC’s predecessor “America’s Talking” and Zucker was executive producer of the “Today” show.
“Ailes offered Zucker an opportunity to end the bitterness,” a source tells TVNewser. The goal was to end the viciousness while allowing each network to cover the other as news warranted. In particular, Ailes wanted to see an end to the attacks on O’Reilly and his family. But the attacks continued and, perhaps exacerbating the issue, that off-the-record conversation was leaked to Howard Kurtz, who wrote about the feud, and the appeals to end it, in May of ’08. Our source points the finger at NBC. “Zucker opened the door to bring Immelt and GE into the fray,” says our source.
So the verbal war continued, and escalated – O’Reilly targeting GE; Olbermann lancing O’Reilly. “The irony here is that Zucker is being credited with helping end a feud, [referring to the NYT story] but it was because of Zucker that it escalated to this point,” says our source.
Then, earlier this year, a high level representative from GE, fearing another leak, reached out to a senior executive at FOX News.
Sources say this led to a series of direct confidential conversations between the GE Chairman Immelt and Fox News chairman Ailes, which continued well into June.
These conversations were kept confidential until today.
An agreement was made to end all personal attacks. It was around this time that many viewers of “The O’Reilly Factor” and “Countdown” began to see a change in how the hosts covered each other and their corporate parents.
TVNewser has also learned there is a fluid agreement between the two companies which was in place prior to the Murdoch-Immelt meeting at Microsoft. It is considered to be a cease fire on all personal attacks. But when a host on Fox News calls the president a “racist,” MSNBC might cover it, just as Fox News might cover Immelt’s position on Pres. Obama’s economic advisory board.
So, the bottom line: There is no “truce.” There is an agreement to end the personal attacks. The premise of there being a complete draw-down between the two networks that was, as Brian Stelter writes in his story, “orchestrated in part by Jeff Zucker, and Gary Ginsberg, an executive vice president who oversees corporate affairs at the News Corporation,” is false, says our source.
“Zucker prolonged the assault on Immelt for another year and Ginsberg has absolutely nothing to do with inner workings of Fox News. Roger Ailes simply doesn’t take orders from Gary Ginsberg,” says our source.