In his new biography of Fox News CEO Roger Ailes, New York magazine reporter Gabriel Sherman lays out how Fox hired journalist Peter Boyer after Boyer published an Ailes-friendly profile in The New Yorker.
According to Sherman, Ailes "was pleased" with the profile, while neighbors in Ailes' New York hometown -- who were feuding with the Fox head -- "felt Boyer got spun." A year and a half later, after a stint at Newsweek, Boyer was snapped up by Fox News and added to their investigative reporting team.
Boyer's role in Sherman's book was highlighted earlier this week by Gawker, which took aim at New York Times book critic Janet Maslin's "inexplicably hostile takedown" of the Ailes biography. According to Gawker, Maslin has "maintained a 30-year friendship with" Boyer, a fact they contend should have been disclosed in her review, given Boyer's role in Sherman's narrative. (The Times responded that Maslin's relationship with Boyer was "completely irrelevant".)
So who is Peter Boyer? While he carried an impressive resume to Fox News (18 years at the New Yorker, stints for PBS, NPR, the NY Times and others), he also has a history of friendly treatment of prominent conservatives.
In a piece for The American Prospect in 2003, Matt Yglesias argued that Boyer "appears to have made something of a career for himself as a conservative interloper at otherwise liberal media outlets." As evidence, Yglesias pointed to Boyer's promotion of "obscure" Clinton-era scandals during his time as a Frontline correspondent, and a profile Boyer had written on Rush Limbaugh for Vanity Fair in the early 90s. Yglesias reported that the profile "drew praise" from the conservative Media Research Center at the time. More than fifteen years later, Limbaugh himself was apparently still happy about it.
In 2009, Limbaugh recalled how then-publisher Tina Brown had sent Boyer to do a profile of him years earlier. Limbaugh labeled Boyer a "great, great guy" and called the story a "good profile" and a "good story."
Boyer's profile of Sarah Palin for Newsweek in 2011 was deemed "actually somewhat favorable" by Fox host Sean Hannity, with Palin herself saying that she "appreciate[d]" that he wrote "a fair piece." Fox colleague Bill O'Reilly called a profile Boyer wrote about him for Newsweek "a miracle," because the magazine "actually said something nice about me." O'Reilly added that the piece was "fair and balanced."
Since being hired by Fox, Boyer has been an intermittent presence on-air, and has only written a small handful of columns for the network's website. His output at the network suggests that Boyer fits in well among his conservative colleagues. Boyer was involved in a Fox News special about food stamps that heavily misrepresented recipients, including trying to make an unemployed surfer the face of the program. He was also involved in promoting a Fox News special about the Kermit Gosnell murder trial by suggesting his crimes were the natural response to Roe v. Wade.
From Sherman's book The Loudest Voice in the Room:
The New Yorker article hit newsstands on January 24, 2011. Headlined "Fox Among the Chickens" and written along the lines of Dr. Seuss's The Butter Battle Book, Boyer's story portrayed Roger and his liberal antagonists, like the Yooks and the Zooks, as destined to destroy any hope for peaceful coexistence. But unlike the Seuss book, which ends without any resolution of the conflict, by the end of Boyer's tidy fable, mutual understanding ensued. "Many places a thousand times larger are served by only a single newspaper; Philipstown now has two, each distinctly better than what was there before," he wrote.
Ailes was pleased with the result. "He called me the day after the story ran," [publisher Gordon] Stewart recalled, "and said he liked it and thought Boyer was really good, and Beth loved her picture." Stewart and other townsfolk had a much dimmer view. They felt Boyer got spun.
On January 31, 2011, a week after Boyer's Cold Spring article was published in The New Yorker, Tina Brown announced that she was hiring Boyer as a senior correspondent forNewsweek and The Daily Beast. It was an inauspicious move for Boyer. On October 18, 2012, the same day Newsweek announced it would fold its print edition by year-end, Boyer found a new job. "I have followed Peter's work throughout his storied career," Roger Ailes said in a statement to the press. "He's a talented and insightful journalist who will add weight and depth to our investigative reporting." Boyer, Fox's newest editor-at-large, was welcomed to the family.