What does Fox News CEO Roger Ailes have in common with New Jersey governor Chris Christie? They are both bullies who enjoy taking out revenge on their political enemies in the most childish way possible. [They are also a couple of jerks whose chunky frames are only outweighed by their inflated egos, and who have a deep and perverse mutual affection for one another] By now everyone knows how Christie sought to punish Democrats in Fort Lee by shutting down lanes on the George Washington Bridge, creating severe traffic jams, costing millions in productivity loss, and potentially endangering people’s lives. And now we learn, from Ailes himself, that his emotional maturity is similarly stunted.
In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter this week, Ailes was asked “Why bring back Sarah Palin just a few months after not renewing her contract?” His answer exposes him as a petulant little twerp who may be too senile to continue running a national news network.
Ailes: I’m not a defender of everything she says. I don’t hear everything she says. But I know she represents a certain group of people who rose up against their own party, which you rarely see. I probably hired her back, if you really want to get to the bottom of it, to give her a chance to say her piece and piss off the people that wanted her dead.
Indeed, Palin represents a certain group of Tea-sodden people, but they are fervently supportive of the far-right wing of their party (as is Ailes) and would never consider voting for anyone but a Republican. The fact that Ailes can’t cite as reasons for Palin’s rehire her superior intellect or insightful analysis says much about his disdain for both Palin and his audience. His management philosophy at Fox appears to include a mandate to inflict revenge on liberals who don’t even watch the network. In reality, the people who dislike Palin (this author included) couldn’t be happier that she is back on Fox News making an ass of herself and the network.
This isn’t the first time that Ailes has made a personnel decision that is rooted in childish vengeance. Last year, in a fawning biography that Ailes himself had solicited, he told the author why he had kept Glenn Beck on the air long after he had decided that Beck was a divisive figure who was costing the network advertising revenue. The reason Ailes gave for putting off Beck’s departure was that he “didn’t want to give MoveOn and Media Matters the satisfaction.” So Ailes permitted Beck to continue broadcasting his race-baiting, Nazi-inflected, conspiracy theories for several more months because he would rather poison the airwaves (and the minds of his viewers) with lies and hatred than to let his ideological adversaries think they had scored a victory.
Another example of the juvenile (and paranoid) brand of Ailes’ management style was revealed in an article this week in the Daily Beast. David Freedlander wrote in “Fox’s War Against Ailes Biographer” about the lengths to which Ailes will go to attack journalists who dare to write anything about the cable news overlord:
“Fox News has been waiting for [Gabriel] Sherman’s book [The Loudest Voice In The Room] to come out. According to interviews with a half-dozen former employees of what is known as the Fox News ‘Brain Room,’ the brain trust at the network has been following Sherman’s work for years. Although the so-called ‘Brain Room,’ located in the basement of Fox News studios, was supposed to be dedicated to research for the networks programming, two former news librarians describe an environment where they were frequently called to do opposition research about media reporters who were writing about Fox News or Ailes. Former employees described being tasked to investigate reporters from a variety of beats, including hunting down personal information such as voter registration that was used to determine how ‘Fox-friendly’ the reporter was.”
The use of a newsroom’s assets and personnel to carry out private vendettas is plainly unethical, as noted by NPR’s media reporter David Folkenflik. Folkenflik was himself a victim of Fox’s wrath and gave the Daily Beast his assessment of the toxic environment at Fox News:
“They are on a wartime footing. They approach this stuff in a very different way, in the way that a PR shop in a political campaign would. It is hard to imagine any other serious news outlet — The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, CNN — handling negative news stories in this way.”
And that’s pretty much the gist of it. Fox is perpetually at war. It is a theme that permeates their broadcasts whether it’s about a Class War or a War on Christmas, there is a built in hostility at Fox that infects its personnel on and off the air. It is why they regard anyone who disagrees with their editorial viewpoint as a hostile adversary. And that precise language was used in an ad that Fox placed in Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post:
[Update 1/11/2014] In response to Ailes claim that he rehired Palin to piss people off, Palin took to her Facebook page to say “Funny. I accepted for the same reason!” Proving that both Ailes and Palin are too stupid to grasp that her critics aren’t the least bit pissed off by her coming back to Fox and spewing her laughably ignorant drivel.