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In a wide-ranging interview with The Daily Beast’s Howard Kurtz, Fox News Channel CEO Roger Ailes weighs in on a number of issues, including Glenn Beck and the political donations made by MSNBC host Keith Olbermann and FNC parent company News Corp.
Political donations have been a hot topic over the last few months, with Olbermann’s suspension and the controversy surrounding News Corp.’s donation to the Chamber of Commerce and Republican Governors Association.
Ailes tells Kurtz that his network didn’t cover Olbermann because there wasn’t much of a story there. “It isn’t like we don’t know the guy supports left-wingers,” he said.
Ailes may dismiss the constant carping about Fox, but he understands the importance of public perception. He says he was “totally surprised” when his parent company, News Corp., donated $1 million to the Republican Governors Association and another $1 million to the Chamber of Commerce—and realized that “lefties would use it to immediately try to damage Fox News.”
In a conversation about the donations, Ailes recalls, Murdoch told him: “I hope that didn’t cause you any problems.” “Nothing we can’t handle,” Ailes replied.
With regards to the highly rated Glenn Beck, Ailes defends the host’s series on billionaire George Soros, but acknowledges that Beck has made his share of mistakes:
Ailes says that everyone who ad libs for a living makes mistakes. But admits to asking Beck to watch his tone: “He and I have had conversations and lunches where I say, ‘What the hell are you doing, man?’…Beck trashes Republicans every night. I’ve said to him, ‘Where the hell are you going to get your audience if you keep this up? You’re trashing everyone.’”
Beck takes such criticism well, Ailes explains, “because he’s so intelligent and basically sensitive.”
There’s one criticism that Ailes doesn’t want to hear. He admonished the staff after unnamed Fox journalists told me they are worried that the divisive Beck is becoming the face of the network.
“Yeah, shut up,” says Ailes. “You’re getting a paycheck. Go on the team or get off the team. Don’t run around here badmouthing a colleague.”
The entire interview is worth reading, check it out here.
> Update: White House press secretary Robert Gibbs fires back. “I think if you watch most of the programming on that channel, I don’t think you would find many of those comments surprising.”