At least eight Fox News personalities took to Twitter over a period of just over two hours today to defend network president Roger Ailes following a report that he's “all alone” after firing top Fox News executive Brian Lewis.
The Hollywood Reporter first reported yesterday that Lewis, who was Fox News' executive vice president for corporate communications and considered Ailes' “right-hand man,” was fired “over what insiders are calling financial issues and other performance problems.” Fox later confirmed Lewis' firing, citing “issues relating to financial irregularities, as well as for multiple, material and significant breaches of his employment contract.”
Lewis' firing was a major shakeup for Fox. As Politico's Dylan Byers noted, “Lewis had been one of Ailes's top advisers since the network's inception in 1996, was a member of his inner circle and had the respect and trust of the president. ... On Ailes's orders, he built and led a team of notoriously combative press representatives who fought against all perceived enemies -- especially other media outlets -- with a take-no-prisoners approach that was the envy of executives across the industry.”
In response to the firing, New York magazine's Gabriel Sherman wrote an August 20 piece headlined, “Roger Ailes Fired His PR Chief, and Now He's All Alone.” Sherman, who has come under repeated attack from Fox News employees because he is writing an unauthorized Ailes biography, wrote that Lewis' departure is “far more consequential to the long-term direction of” Fox News than recent show changes because he's “a moderating influence on Ailes. Lewis was one of the few senior executives who would vocally challenge Ailes (although he was smart enough to do it privately).”
Politico reported today that “sources with knowledge of the situation” said “Ailes had suspected Lewis of leaking information to Gabriel Sherman, the author of a forthcoming book about Ailes and Fox News.”
Today, within a period of roughly two hours and fifteen minutes, eight different Fox News personalities responded to Sherman's August 20 report by defending their boss and attacking the New York reporter.
Fox News host Bill O'Reilly:
Fox News contributor Joe Trippi:
Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano:
Fox News host Sean Hannity:
Fox News host Greg Gutfeld:
Fox News contributor Doug Schoen:
Fox News contributor Karl Rove:
Fox News host Greta Van Susteren:
On her blog, Van Susteren did not directly mention Sherman but appeared to be referencing at least some of his reporting, writing that claims that “Roger is isolated and Brian Lewis is the #2” are “so silly”:
First, contrary to what I read this morning, Roger Ailes is not isolated. I see him every time I go to New York. We sit around his office - I have a Diet Coke - and we talk, we laugh (he is very funny.) While I am with him, he gets calls non stop, he gets notes run into him and people pop in and out. It doesn't stop. Isolated? Not at all -- although with the level of business traffic in and out of his office, I bet he might wish to be isolated.
Second, contrary to what I read this morning, Brian Lewis is NOT the #2 at Fox News Channel, is NOT the right hand man to Roger, and is NOT largely responsible for building the network and its success. Really? Brian? Are you kidding? Where was he? I have been at Fox for 11 1/2 years, with tons and tons of non stop interaction with the management, and I can remember only once ever seeing him (he was in DC on a college tour with a child who has long graduated and we talked college, not Fox!) No one inside Fox ever talked about Brian as the #2 or the force behind Roger or the success of Fox News Channel. If he was the #2 at Fox News and and largely responsible for its success, that is a Fox News Alert to this prime time anchor of 11 1/2 years! Frankly, I don't think I could pick Brian out of a line up!
Where do people get this stuff? Yes...I know, those anonymous sources. The ones who don't have the courage to speak up. I do. My name is on this one. [italics in original]
Fox News and Ailes appear to be working hard to defuse Sherman's reporting. Politico reported that according to sources, Ailes participated in a flattering biography by Zev Chafets “to counteract” Sherman's forthcoming Ailes biography. Fox Newsers have also made “a strong effort” to “discredit Sherman”:
In the wake of that publishing one-upsmanship, a strong effort has been made to discredit Sherman -- with much of the criticism being leveled by commentators on Ailes' Fox News network. Fox News pundits have taken to Twitter to call Sherman “a [George] Soros puppet,” a “phony journalist,” a “stalker” and “harasser.” He has also come under fire from other conservative commentators, anti-gun-control activist John Lott and the editors of Breitbart.com.
To date, no evidence has emerged that Ailes ordered his employees to stir up the attacks on Sherman -- which have gone beyond the usual confines of professional critiques and into the realm of personal insult and innuendo.
Sources familiar with the Chafets bio say Sherman's reporting was a key factor in Ailes' decision to work with Chafets. Ailes opened up to Chafets, they say, because he was eager to preempt Sherman's version with a more favorable and hopefully sympathetic account of his legacy -- and because an earlier plan to pen his own autobiography has not come together in time. Ailes had begun working on his autobiography with co-author Jim Pinkerton, a Fox News contributor, in 2011, the year after Sherman began work on “The Loudest Voice in the Room.”
UPDATE: Fox News contributor Rick Sanchez also tweeted his support of Ailes:
UPDATE 2: Fox News senior political analyst Brit Hume has also joined the chorus: