Among the many quotes in the Esquire profile of Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, one stood out: MSNBC president Phil Griffin. Griffin, who has helped oversee MSNBC’s transformation over the last few years, admits to cribbing from the Ailes playbook.
“Roger got cable,” says Phil Griffin, the president of MSNBC. “Everybody else learned it, studying Roger. Well, maybe not CNN. CNN still doesn’t get it. But Roger got it from day one.”
Specifically, Griffin recalls when Ailes, then at CNBC, wanted control over the soon-to-launch MSNBC, control that was not given to him:
People don’t remember how closed everything was back then,” Griffin told Esquire in one of my 30-plus interviews for a new profile in the February issue. “I mean, there was a time when the heads of every single news channel — CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS — sent their sons to the same private school. And there really were voices that they would not allow on television. Not just conservative voices, but voices that they thought were beneath them — vulgar. It was a class thing. And so when Roger wanted to run MSNBC in the mid-nineties there was no way they were going to let him. He was already running this low-rent, 24-hour-talk channel called America’s Talking, and they were embarrassed by it. They thought they would just do network news on cable, and they’d have a big hit. Roger, of course, took what he learned at America’s Talking, went across the street to Rupert Murdoch, and just demolished them.”
Ailes quit, went to work for Rupert Murdoch at News Corporation, launched Fox News, and the rest was history.