Roger Ailes

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  • Report: Rupert Murdoch And Fox News All In On Donald Trump

    New York Magazine’s Sherman: Fox Has “Thrown In The Towel” And Won’t “Go After Trump”

    Blog ››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

    In a New York magazine article, Gabriel Sherman reported that Rupert Murdoch, executive co-chairman of Fox News' parent company, “has signaled he plans to fully back Trump in the general election against Hillary Clinton” in “a sharp reversal from the hostile view he held over much of the past year.”

    Sherman noted that Murdoch’s “flip flop” on Trump follows the presumptive Republican nominee’s months-long feud with Fox News in which Trump boycotted a network presidential debate, referred to Fox anchor Megyn Kelly as a “crazy” and “overrated anchor,” and even boycotted the network (for a week). Fox responded to Trump’s actions by openly mocking the candidate and accusing him of having a “sick obsession” with Megyn Kelly. It was also reported in the early days of Trump’s campaign that Murdoch and Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes were fighting over the network’s coverage of the candidate.

    According to Sherman, the network has reportedly “thrown in the towel” and will “go easy on Trump.” Sherman explained “That Murdoch flip flopped on Trump shouldn’t be all that surprising” because he’s repeatedly “sacrificed core principles to forge political alliances that advance his media empire’s interests” and "it’s clear Trump is good for business.” From the May 17 report:

    Call it the media equivalent of Bobby Riggs vs. Billie Jean King: Tonight, Donald Trump finally sits down with his Fox News nemesis Megyn Kelly. The battle between Trump and Fox’s biggest star has been one of the most compelling story lines of the 2016 election, and the subject of much discussion in the run-up to Kelly’s prime-time broadcast special with the GOP frontrunner. But in all the coverage of the Trump-Kelly détente, a more important development has been overlooked: Trump has made peace with Kelly’s boss’s boss, Rupert Murdoch.

    According to a half dozen sources familiar with Murdoch’s thinking, the media mogul has signaled he plans to fully back Trump in the general election against Hillary Clinton. Murdoch’s embrace of Trump is a sharp reversal from the hostile view he held over much of the past year. In fact, according to one high-level Fox source, it was Murdoch himself who directed Kelly to hammer Trump during the debut GOP debate, in Cleveland, that sparked the feud in the first place. “Rupert told her to do that,” the source said.

    [...]
    That Murdoch flip-flopped on Trump shouldn’t be all that surprising. Yes, Trump’s stances on immigration and trade clash with Murdoch’s more moderate views (he's for comprehensive reform and trade deals). But throughout Murdoch’s career, he’s sacrificed core principles to forge political alliances that advance his media empire’s interests (after all, he backed both Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair in the U.K.).

    And it’s clear Trump is good for business. According to one Fox News producer, the channel's ratings dip whenever an anti-Trump segment airs. A Fox anchor told me that the message from Roger Ailes's executives is they need to go easy on Trump. “It’s, ‘Make sure we don't go after Trump,’” the anchor said. “We’ve thrown in the towel.” Similarly, the New York Post has staked out a pro-Trump position in the marketplace while its rival the Daily News remains one of Trump’s loudest critics. The Post endorsed Trump last month and dubbed him “King Don!” after he won the New York primary. (The outlier among Murdoch’s properties is The Wall Street Journal. “They’re stupid people,” Trump told me back in March).

    Murdoch's strategy seems to be a win-win. If Trump gets into the White House, Murdoch will likely have an open line to the new administration (at least as open as anyone can have with Trump). And, if Trump loses to Hillary Clinton, then Murdoch's right-wing outlets have a ready-made enemy to beat up on for the next four years. That's a deal Trump can surely respect.

  • Report: Fox's Roger Ailes Just Turned On Marco Rubio

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Ailes/Rubio

    Fox News chairman Roger Ailes has reportedly "told people he's lost confidence in [Sen. Marco] Rubio's ability to win" the Republican nomination for president, according to New York magazine's Gabriel Sherman.

    Fox News has drawn criticism from other Republican candidates for favoring the Florida senator throughout the presidential primaries. Sherman's report comes just a day before the Republican candidates will face off in a debate on Fox's airwaves. 

    Shortly before Sherman's report was published, Fox host Sean Hannity, who has expressed support for all of the major GOP candidates, lashed out at Rubio, accusing him of being "coached" to attack Donald Trump by "establishment types."

    From Sherman's report:

    In his role as the donor class's darling, Marco Rubio has enjoyed support from the Republican's media arm, Fox News. Throughout the primary, Fox provided Rubio with friendly interviews and key bookings, including the first prime-time response to Barack Obama's Oval Office address on ISIS. Many of the network's top pundits, including Stephen Hayes and Charles Krauthammer, have been enthusiastic boosters. Bill Sammon, Fox's Washington managing editor, is the father of Rubio's communications director, Brooke Sammon.  

    But this alliance now seems to be over. According to three Fox sources, Fox chief Roger Ailes has told people he's lost confidence in Rubio's ability to win. "We're finished with Rubio," Ailes recently told a Fox host. "We can't do the Rubio thing anymore." 

  • Conservative Media Overruled The GOP's Own 2012 Autopsy -- And The 2016 Rhetoric About Immigrants Proves It

    Blog ››› ››› CRISTINA LOPEZ

    A February 27 piece in The New York Times illustrated how the Republican Party has allowed right-wing media to play a gatekeeper role on immigration issues.

    The paper reported that legislators working to pass immigration reform in 2013 had to seek support from media mogul and executive co-chairman of Fox News' parent company Rupert Murdoch, Fox News chairman Roger Ailes and conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, but even those entreaties didn't win the backing of conservative pundits. Fringe media players attacked the legislation, spurring Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who was helping with the effort, to back away from the issue, The Times reported. Now, the 2016 election is marked by the same anti-immigration rhetoric emblematic of right-wing media figures -- an approach that runs counter to both national opinion and the pro-inclusivity strategy the GOP laid out after its 2012 presidential election loss. That's of no consequence to right-wing media, whose fortunes aren't tied to GOP electoral success, but it could be devastating for immigrants in this country.

    According to The Times, Rubio and other co-sponsors of the 2013 immigration reform bill -- known as the "Gang of Eight" -- knew that they needed to get Murdoch and Ailes on board to give their legislation "a fighting chance at survival." Aware of the eroding trust among their viewership -- which lately, as reported by CNN's Dylan Byers, doesn't think Fox News is "conservative enough" -- Murdoch and Ailes advised the legislators to also seek the blessing of Limbaugh, who "held enormous sway with the party's largely anti-immigrant base." The New York Times reported on February 27:

    Their mission was to persuade Rupert Murdoch, the owner of the media empire, and Roger Ailes, the chairman and chief executive of its Fox News division, to keep the network's on-air personalities from savaging the legislation and give it a fighting chance at survival.

    Mr. Murdoch, an advocate of immigration reform, and Mr. Ailes, his top lieutenant and the most powerful man in conservative television, agreed at the Jan. 17, 2013, meeting to give the senators some breathing room.

    But the media executives, highly attuned to the intensifying anger in the Republican grass roots, warned that the senators also needed to make their case to Rush Limbaugh, the king of conservative talk radio, who held enormous sway with the party's largely anti-immigrant base.

    The Gang turned to Rubio to reach out to Limbaugh, as The Times reported, but the lobbying was unsuccessful; right-wing media launched an offensive against the push for immigration reform and against Rubio personally. Despite the Gang of Eight's appeals specifically against the label, right-wing radio continued to attack the bill as "amnesty." Radio host Laura Ingraham slammed Rubio, saying that unless he walked back his support for the bill, he would "rue the day that he became the Gang of Eight's poodle." Similarly, conservative pundit Michelle Malkin stated that he should move away from the immigration bill. Breitbart News also demanded that Rubio vote against his own bill. Right-wing media not only effectively sank the bill, but their criticism so deeply impacted Rubio that he has spent a considerable amount of time during his presidential campaign running as far as possible from the immigration positions he once espoused, to the gloating satisfaction of conservative radio pundits.

    The rift between factions of conservative media has continued to deepen as the 2016 campaign has progressed, fueled in part by the polarizing presence of front-runner Donald Trump. After The Times published its piece, Rush Limbaugh tried to assuage his listeners. Limbaugh said he never even considered helping Rubio and the Gang of Eight on the immigration initiative. He portrayed the article as an attempt to "drive this wedge between" him and his loyal following by casting doubts on the purity of his anti-immigrant credentials.

    The way right-wing media relentlessly torpedoed the reform -- and Limbaugh's need to wear his opposition to immigration as a badge - demonstrates how conservative media has effectively obliterated the space for a compassionate approach to immigration policy. And that explains why the tone of the 2016 Republican presidential campaign has been marked by anti-immigrant rhetoric and extremism.

    The campaign's current anti-immigrant vitriol is a far cry from the goals the Republican Party espoused after its defeat in the 2012 presidential elections. After Mitt Romney's loss, strategists and campaign experts questioned the GOP's dependence on the right-wing media bubble: Keith Appell labeled it the "GOP's choir-preaching problem," while Mike Murphy asked that the party stop embracing viewpoints lifted from "Rush Limbaugh's dream journal." The Republican National Committee published the Growth & Opportunity Project -- more commonly known as the "autopsy" -- in which inclusion and a change in tone were deemed essential components of the road map toward 2016.

    And yet, the stark contrast between the road map's goals and the party's current anti-immigrant discourse demonstrates that Republican candidates will side with right-wing media over the party's own goals, even when doing so runs counter to the will of a majority of Americans:

    Right-wing media's strong influence on the GOP is likely to continue driving the party toward stances that alienate Latinos and other minorities. As Vox's David Roberts pointed out in a July 30, 2015, piece, because right-wing media's audience is mostly white and male, these outlets have no incentives to soften their policy positions or lessen the vitriol toward ethnic and racial minorities. And while changing demographics are lessening the dominance of the white/male constituency in general elections, right-wing media doesn't need to win elections to be profitable. According to Roberts:

    The problem is that right-wing media is in no way dependent on the political success of the GOP. In fact, it's almost the opposite: The more the party establishment fails to deliver on the far right's (wildly unrealistic) demands, the more the audience feels betrayed, and the angrier it gets. That means more clicks, more phone calls, more engagement. It is to right-wing media's great benefit for the party to engage in a series of dramatic, doomed protest gestures like shutting down the government or attempting to repeal Obamacare for the 47th time. It stokes the outrage machine.

  • Roger Ailes' "Mouthpiece" Is Urging Republicans Not To Obstruct Obama's Supreme Court Pick

    Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

    Ailes/JohnsonPeter Johnson Jr., the Fox News analyst who reportedly serves as network chairman Roger Ailes' on-air "mouthpiece," has repeatedly urged Senate Republicans not to proceed with their unprecedented strategy to obstruct President Obama's forthcoming Supreme Court nominee.

    Following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, Senate Republicans embarked on an extreme plan to refuse to consider any nominee Obama might make to replace him. On February 22, Senate Republicans announced that they would refuse even to hold hearings to consider any Obama nomination.

    Some right-wing commentators have urged the GOP to carry out this extreme effort. But the plan has received a mixed response from Fox News, with some commentators urging Republicans to "stand firm," while others have said that the senators are "making a mistake." Johnson has been the network's most vehement opponent of the GOP's strategy, using a series of Fox & Friends appearances to castigate the party for its "unprecedented" acts.

    On February 16, after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) stated that Scalia's seat "should not be filled until we have a new president," Johnson told the hosts of Fox & Friends that "Republicans have to recalibrate immediately" and admit they made a mistake, adding: "It's not smart. It's not good for our future. It's not good for our governance, and it's not good for the notion that this government is responsive to the needs of the people. We need a Supreme Court with nine folks on it. It's that simple. They need to step it back today."

    The next morning, Johnson praised Judiciary Chairman Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) for walking back his initial statement that the next president should be the one to fill the vacated Supreme Court seat (Grassley would later re-reverse his position). Johnson explained, "Republicans are stepping it back because they don't want to be seen as obstructionist. They don't want to be harassed by editorial boards or commentators like me yesterday that said, listen, step it back."

    And today, after McConnell announced that an Obama nominee would not even receive a hearing before the Judiciary Committee, Johnson said that the move was "unprecedented in American history" and "might be a constitutional crisis." He added that the move was a partisan effort to ensure "the survival of the Republican Party" at a time when conservative activists are angry with the GOP, and concluded, "The pressure will mount every day when the Republicans refuse to even shake hands or say hello to that presidential nominee."

    Johnson is not just any Fox News contributor -- he is Ailes' personal lawyer and has been identified as a key confidante of the Fox News chairman as well as his on-air "mouthpiece." Johnson reportedly confers with Ailes regularly and then voices his opinions over the network's airwaves.

    New York magazine's Gabriel Sherman, who subsequently authored a biography of Ailes, reported in 2012 (emphasis added):

    But if you want to know what Roger Ailes really thinks about the news these days, here's a tip: Pay close attention to Peter Johnson Jr., Fox News' legal analyst. The Columbia-educated lawyer is certainly not as familiar to most viewers as Bill O'Reilly or Sean Hannity, but inside the network, Johnson has become, in many respects, more influential, thanks to his ties to Ailes. To understand Fox right now, you have to understand the unique role Peter Johnson Jr. has come to play in Ailes's inner circle.

    Consider this: Johnson is an on-air pundit, weighing in on topics as varied as Trayvon Martin, Occupy Wall Street, Obamacare, and Benghazi. He is a regular fill-in host on Fox & Friends. And he is Ailes's personal attorney who negotiated the network chief's new four-year contract with News Corp., said to be worth upward of $30 million a year. Fox executives frequently find Johnson conferring with Ailes privately. "He is a fixture in Ailes's office," one Fox source explained.

    But Johnson's value to Ailes extends far beyond his work as a lawyer. This election season, when Ailes has a message to communicate, chances are that it is Johnson who articulates it on air. One insider told me that Johnson is allowed to use the teleprompter to read from scripts, a perk which is normally reserved for Fox hosts. "Johnson has a rare privilege other contributors don't have," the source said. "He can load a script directly into the teleprompter. So it's not even Ailes unplugged. It's Ailes plugged in ... It's why he sounds like Roger."

    When Roger Ailes thinks a Republican political strategy is too extreme, the GOP has a problem.

  • Report: The Trump Campaign Is Tearing Apart Fox News

    NY Mag Highlights Fox's "Confusion" About Trump Coverage And Its Role in 2016 Elections

    Blog ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH

    New York magazine's Gabriel Sherman highlighted the "confusion" at Fox News about the network's role in the "altered media ecosystem going forward," in particular over the coverage of GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump.

    Trump has been a regular fixture on Fox News since 2011, which paved the way for his presidential run. The relationship between Trump and Fox became tumultuous following Fox's first GOP primary debate in August 2015, during which moderator Megyn Kelly questioned Trump about his history of sexism. Yet, Fox continued to give Trump more than double the airtime of any other candidate. Trump ultimately skipped Fox's second primary debate in January after the network released a mocking statement in response to his demand that Kelly be removed as a moderator. Fox chairman Roger Ailes and network personalities have since struggled with their coverage of Trump.

    A February 9 article from New York magazine's Gabriel Sherman highlighted the internal "confusion about what role" Fox News "should play in this altered media ecosystem going forward." Sherman argued, "Historically, in moments like this the strategy would be clear: Punish the person who publicly crosses Fox." But as Sherman pointed out, "network boss Ailes has tried that" and Trump has "demonstrated that disregarding Fox News doesn't spell political ruin for a Republican." Sherman also highlighted how the Trump-Kelly spar has now forced Ailes to "broker peace between Fox's biggest stars, Bill O'Reilly and Megyn Kelly":

    With his decisive win in New Hampshire, Donald Trump dashed the GOP Establishment's hope that skipping last month's Fox News debate would sink his campaign. By claiming more than a third of the New Hampshire vote, Trump not only exceeded expectations and more than doubled the vote tally of any of his rivals -- but also demonstrated that disregarding Fox News doesn't spell political ruin for a Republican. The grip that Rupert Murdoch, Roger Ailes, and Co. have held on the GOP for nearly a generation got a little looser Tuesday night.

    Inside Fox there is confusion about what role the network should play in this altered media ecosystem going forward. According to three insiders I spoke to, the channel's hosts and producers are split over how to cover Trump. Historically, in moments like this the strategy would be clear: Punish the person who publicly crosses Fox. But network boss Ailes has tried that, and Trump not only survived the PR assaults, including one last month, but he seems to have emerged stronger than ever. The situation is even more dire because Marco Rubio, a favorite of many high-profile voices at the network, fared badly in the New Hampshire primary, only a few days after political analysts were floating the possibility that he might even beat Trump. Tuesday night, Fox's pundit class had to accept that his robotic performance during ABC's debate may have destroyed his candidacy. Charles Krauthammer even compared it to Ed Muskie's 1972 implosion.

    [...]

    In fact, Ailes's bigger problem this week is not Trump. It's figuring out how to broker peace between Fox's biggest stars, Bill O'Reilly and Megyn Kelly. According to sources, the prime-time hosts are at war, in part over Kelly's Trump-fueled stardom. O'Reilly is said to be outraged that Kelly went on Stephen Colbert's post-Super Bowl show and seemed to criticize his program because it's taped at 5 p.m. and airs at 8 p.m." If you're not live at night -- because the show before me and the show after me are taped -- you lose a lot," she told Colbert, the comedian famous for playing a buffoonish version of O'Reilly for years. O'Reilly has also told people he's furious that Kelly hasn't shown him respect for helping make her Fox's brightest light. Things got so bad that back in September Kelly switched talent agents -- she'd been represented by longtime O'Reilly agent Carole Cooper but left for CAA. "They're at each other's throats big time," one Fox insider said. "I mean, like big time. Roger doesn't know what the hell to do." It's possibly a sign that Murdoch wants to keep Kelly in the fold that last week his book publisher HarperCollins signed her to a reported $10 million book deal.

  • "Well It Looks Like I'll Be Able To Wear Pants": Fox News Personality Alludes To Fox's Sexist Dress Code Policy

    Blog ››› ››› DAYANITA RAMESH

    On Fox News' The Five, co-host Kimberly Guilfyole inadvertently highlighted the network's sexist dress code when she said that she may be able to wear pants on the show's Iowa set because cameras won't get "a suitable shot for me there."

    On the January 27 edition of Fox News' The Five co-host Greg Gutfeld revealed the set that the co-hosts would use for their upcoming Iowa coverage. As the camera panned out to show the desk where the co-hosts would be seated, Guilfyole commented "Oh my god, well it looks Iike I'll be able to wear pants, because I'm not seeing a suitable shot for me there":

    Guilfoyle's comments highlight Fox's well know problem with sexism and scantily clad women. In 2013, Fox host Gretchen Carlson admitted that "pants were not allowed on Fox & Friends," a show she co-hosted with two male co-hosts from 2006 until 2013. Journalist and author Gabriel Sherman also noted several other examples of Fox's dress code, notably by Fox News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes. On several occasions, Ailes has made sexist comments about female reporters legs, including, "I did not spend x-number of dollars on a glass desk for her to wear pant suits," and "move that damn laptop, I can't see her legs." Sherman also wrote that Ailes even envisioned "the leg" being an important part of The Five's creation explaining the show needs a leading man, a serious lead, a court jester, a Falstaff, and "the leg":

    Years later at Fox News, Ailes would talk fondly about his theatrical experience. "Whenever he can, he gets into the conversation that he produced Hot l Baltimore," a senior Fox executive said. Creating the Fox News afternoon show The Five, Ailes found his inspiration on the stage. "He said, 'I've always wanted to do an ensemble concept,'" a close friend said. "He said, 'I wanted a Falstaff, and that's Bob Beckel. I need a leading man, and it's Eric Bolling. I need a serious lead and that's Dana Perino. I need a court jester and it's Greg [Gutfeld], and I need the leg. That's Andrea Tantaros."

  • With Donald Trump Abandoning Its Debate, Fox News Scorched By Its Own Chicanery

    Blog ››› ››› ANGELO CARUSONE

    Donald Trump

    GOP Presidential candidate Donald Trump backing out of Fox News' debate is a damning indictment of the creature that the right-wing media helped create and that the rest of the media enabled for far too long.

    Not only did Fox News and the rest of the right-wing media manufacture many of the lies that serve as the refrain of Trump's campaign, but they also fomented much of the racial antipathy and sexism that Trump is using to fuel his campaign.

    In this conservative universe, facts don't matter. Which is exactly why Donald Trump can claim that he is backing out of the Thursday's debate due to the fact that Fox News doesn't treat him well, despite the fact that Trump has appeared on Fox News at least two and a half times more than any of his GOP primary opponents. (I'll save the irony of Fox News being burned by the same kind of fact free attacks that the network conditioned its audience to respond to for another day.)

    In his rationale, Trump also cited concerns about the debate being moderated by Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly. Trump has openly attacked Kelly since the first Fox News debate in August. But make no mistake, Donald Trump does not have a problem with Megyn Kelly because she's a serious journalist who asks really tough questions (she isn't). Nor is it because she challenges Trump's policies. Remember, Kelly was one of the first media figures to defend Donald Trump's claim that Mexican immigrants are rapists and killers.

    Trump has a problem with Megyn Kelly because at the first Republican primary debate, Kelly asked Trump about his misogyny and his long record of sexists attacks against women. Trump reacted by attacking Kelly, suggesting that she was on her period and subsequently threatening to boycott Fox News.

    Media Matters' John Whitehouse succinctly summed up the connection between the Kelly/Trump dynamic at play here and the right-wing media: "For decades, conservatives have not only made it clear that misogyny is allowed and acceptable, but that any attempts to silence it are wrong." Indeed. In 2012, Rush Limbaugh went on a multi-day tirade against then law school student Sandra Fluke, calling her a "slut," a "prostitute" and demanding that she post sex videos online among other attacks. Instead of condemning the attacks, conservatives lined up to defend Limbaugh's comments (including Megyn Kelly and then presidential candidate Mitt Romney.)

    Kelly's confrontation of Trump's misogyny was inconsistent with the values that the right-wing media audience has been steeped in. In this universe, facts don't matter, sexism is acceptable, and trying to stop misogyny is a punishable offense. Trump made gains within the conservative movement because of his prolific misogynistic offensive against Kelly, not in spite of it. With this latest gambit, I suspect his calculus is that he'll either make additional gains or suffer no consequences.

    Meanwhile, the rest of the news media has enabled Trump's bigoted bullying and chicanery by creating a consequence-free climate for Trump to operate in. Put aside that they have not given the Republican front-runner any meaningful scrutiny consistent with front-runners in previous elections. And, put aside the perverse incentive they advance by rewarding Trump with attention for each drop of vitriol. They have sat mostly idle while Trump intimidates and suppresses the news media in a way not seen in modern politics. Trump has thrown reporters out of events, had security guards threaten journalists not to interview rally attendees and banning entire media outlets from attending his public events. Instead of standing up for their colleagues and profession, the rest of the news media not only ignored Trump's attacks on the 4th Estate, but tripped over each other to give Trump even more attention.

    As this campaign season unfolded, we have seen the coalescence of fact free and consequence free.

    Just a few days ago, Donald Trump (who is fond of reminding people that he often carries a gun on his person) bragged that he believes his supporters are so devoted that he could shoot someone in cold blood in the middle of Fifth Avenue and in cold blood and not suffer any political consequences. Is it any wonder that he thinks he can get away with skipping this debate, especially among an audience that is already conditioned not to care about the facts?