Van Susteren Defends Ailes' Remark That He Hired Palin Because "She Was Hot"

Blog ››› ››› ERIC HANANOKI

In a recent interview, Fox News chief Roger Ailes told the Associated Press that he "hired Sarah Palin because she was hot and got ratings." Ailes' remark has been interpreted as him suggesting that Palin's looks were a factor in her hiring. Whether or not that's the case, Ailes has previously said he's considered whether a woman is "attractive" enough for on-air work.

Fox News host Greta Van Susteren defended her boss' comment in a post on her blog. Susteren claimed that Ailes remarks were being misinterpreted and that "his use of the term 'hot' was not meant in a cheap way but rather to describe how everyone in the TV business after the 2008 election was trying to hire the Governor":

I know all the Fox critics will seize on the word "hot" (see below) and accuse Roger of all sorts of things. It will be a field day for the critics - Roger Ailes, Fox News Channel, Governor Palin and the word hot! But if you know Roger and how he wants his cable news network to be and continue to be the most successful (and it is and has been for a long time), you know his use of the term "hot" was not meant in a cheap way but rather to describe how everyone in the TV business after the 2008 election was trying to hire the Governor. TV execs in every network knew she would get the viewers. Yes, she was hot - just as you might describe the new iPhone! (I am sure that comparison to the new iPHone will generate some criticism or discussion.)

When you sought after by all in business, you are hot. I remember after the 2008 election hearing about a bidding war for her among all the networks. In this business, or in any business or sport, when you are part of a bidding war, you are hot...real hot!

If Roger were using the term hot in that 'other way,' and looking to hire that kind of hot, I assure you, he could have hired someone that kind of hot for 1/5 the price of Governor Palin and Roger does watch the bottom line.

Do I think for one second anyone who is a Fox critic or a Roger Ailes critic will believe me? No, of course not. For some people, facts don't matter - it is about who's side are you on Do I care that no one will believe? No, not particularly. And am I posting this to schmooze Roger ? Nope..I have a long term term contract. I don't have to schmooze. (And if you know me, it isn't my personality.) So why bother to post it? I guess some times you just think stuff is so stupid and will be taken out of context and you want to correct it. Sometimes I ignore it, sometimes I don't.

In a January 2011 interview with Esquire's Tom Junod, Ailes said of reporter Amy Kellogg (who graduated with a masters from Stanford and previously held jobs with several television stations before landing at Fox News):

Amy Kellogg came in [looking for a job] and said they thought she looked terrible and we couldn't put her on. She had glasses or something, she had the wrong hair, she had no makeup, she had funny clothes, and I saw through all of it and I said, "Amy, you're very attractive. Do you mind me sending you down to makeup? Let's see if we can do a little work with you." And she said, "No, not at all." Now she's a great, terrific foreign correspondent for us.

Esquire also reported on Ailes' decision to put anchor Jenna Lee in front of the camera:

"Well, she didn't look anything like she looks now when she came here. She'd just completed Columbia journalism school, and she wanted to be a writer. But I met with her and sent her down to hair and makeup to clean her up a little. When she came back, I took a look at her and said, 'What would you think of going on air?' I had to work with her a little to bring her pitch down, and now she's going to be a big star. And she wanted to be a writer."

So that's how it's done -- that's how Fox has become the Schwab's drugstore for right-wing mean girls. But if you listen to Mr. Ailes, it's not simply a matter of beauty; it's a matter of authenticity. "Look at the girl over there on HLN. African-American. Attractive, though she needs a haircut. And she doesn't know how to dress -- her dress is too busy, look what it's doing to the screen. And they use her too much. But she has an interesting look. Look at the difference between her and the anchor. She's just being herself. She's not trying to do anything. She's just trying to tell him a story. That's interesting. He's trying to be an anchor. He's trying to project authority. It's always more interesting watching people be who they are than it is watching people try to be who they are not.

And in 2008, Howard Kurtz reported that then-Washington managing editor Brit Hume said that Megyn Kelly's looks were a factor in her hiring:

Kelly sent Fox a tape, which immediately impressed Brit Hume, the Washington managing editor, and his wife Kim, then the bureau chief.

"Here is this woman who was strikingly attractive but has tremendous air presence and a very strong voice," Hume says. "We were knocked out. It was screamingly obvious that this was someone with tremendous potential."

What's more, says Hume, "she seemed to get what we've talked about with 'fair and balanced news' . . . She came in believing there was a left bias in the news. That's not common." He quickly created an opening for her. [emphasis added]

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Roger Ailes, Greta Van Susteren
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