Three Takeaways From Vanity Fair’s Roger Ailes Excerpt

By Alex Weprin Comment

Vanity Fair has an excerpt from the upcoming biography of Roger Ailes by Zev Chafets. The excerpt is primarily about Ailes the man, not Ailes the executive, though that isn’t to say there aren’t some interesting TV angles.

The relationship between Ailes and Rupert Murdoch is one of respect, and money:

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 … ”

FBN is building out a large studio space on the ground floor of 47th street and sixth avenue. At the Fox Sports upfront (more on that later), executives indicated that they may take advantage of the studio space too. Regardless of what shows are being produced, they are ready for anything:

No detail was too small for him during his tour of the studios. Ailes walked over to the huge windows facing Sixth Avenue.

“What’s the stop on this glass?”

“Three fifty-seven caliber,” said the engineer.

“At what range?”

“Close up,” the engineer said.

Ailes nodded. You put a television show on street level, you had better be prepared for armed critics.

When Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum complained about FNC’s coverage during the 2012 campaign, Ailes had no sympathy:

One day during the 2012 primary season, Newt Gingrich complained that Fox News’s support for Mitt Romney was responsible for Gingrich’s poor showing. Rick Santorum had made a similar claim when he dropped out of the race. Gingrich and Santorum had been Fox commentators before getting into the race, and Ailes found their complaints self-serving and disloyal. Brian Lewis, his spokesman, asked Ailes for guidance on how to respond to Newt. “Brush him back,” Ailes said. “He’s a sore loser and if he had won he would have been a sore winner.” Lewis nodded.

Ailes was silent for a moment and then added, “Newt’s a prick.”