For more than a year, Fox News has waged an intense campaign to discredit Gabriel Sherman's forthcoming biography of network CEO Roger Ailes. A review of the book, which Media Matters obtained in advance of its Tuesday release, reveals that the network was right to be worried.
Among other revelations, Sherman reports that Ailes agreed with Glenn Beck's infamous remark that President Obama has “a deep-seated hatred for white people”; Ailes thinks Navy SEALs should “have to personally kill an illegal immigrant” as part of their certification; Ailes allegedly offered an employee a salary increase if she would have sex with him on demand; and Ailes once called a rival executive “a little fucking Jew prick.”
The first details from Sherman's The Loudest Voice in the Room generated serious press attention this week, including the news that Ailes tried to gear Fox's 2012 coverage to “elect the next president.”
Sherman has been the target of attacks on his credibility from both Fox personalities -- who have labeled him a “phoney journalist” and an “embarrassment” -- and Ailes himself. The attacks on Sherman will likely intensify around the book's release, given Fox's notoriously merciless public relations team.
Why so much effort by the network to suppress a book? Because Sherman's The Loudest Voice in the Room is filled with revelations about Ailes that would never be reported in hagiographies like Zev Chafets' Ailes-sanctioned bio that was published last year (a book that Ailes reportedly cooperated with as a way to preempt Sherman's book).
Sherman paints an unflattering portrait of Ailes as a vindictive, paranoid partisan who has risen to become possibly the most important conservative in the country by using his top-rated cable news network as a clearinghouse for Republican propaganda.
Former Fox News host Glenn Beck set off a media firestorm in 2009 when he accused President Obama of having a “deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture.” Sherman reports that while the network tried to “manage the fallout” from Beck's comments, Ailes nonetheless told executives behind the scenes, “I think he's right”:
But Beck's show built on Ailes's playbook, making the culture wars personal. He seemed to many to be Fox News's id made visible, saying things -- Obama is a racist, Nazi tactics are progressive tactics -- dredged from the right-wing subconscious. Beck crossed lines that weren't supposed to be crossed, even at Fox, and the presentation -- childlike, angry, often tearful -- was as remarkable as the content. Some at Fox were alarmed by Beck's rhetoric but Ailes was fully on-board. Privately, Ailes said Beck was telling the truth. The day after Beck said on air that the president has a “deep-seated hatred for white people,” Ailes told his executives, “I think he's right.” The only question was how to manage the fallout. It was decided Bill Shine would release a statement. “Glenn Beck expressed a personal opinion which represented his own views, not those of the Fox News Channel,” it read. “And as with all his commentators in the cable news arena, he is given the freedom to express his opinions.” [The Loudest Voice in the Room, pg 334]
Ailes Thinks Navy SEALs Should “Have To Personally Kill An Illegal Immigrant” As Part Of Certification
Sherman reports that while Ailes has “been careful to moderate his immigration position in public,” he nonetheless harbors appalling views on the subject, including allegedly saying that the Navy SEALs should “have to personally kill an illegal immigrant” as part of their certification:
Ailes said that if he were president, he would solve the immigration problem by sitting the president of Mexico down and giving him a stern talking-to: “Your country is corrupt. You can now only take thirty percent of what the people earn instead of seventy percent. If you don't do that, I'll send the CIA down there to kill you.” He had been careful to moderate his immigration position in public. “If I'm going to risk my life to run over the fence to get into America, I want to win. I think Fox News will articulate that,” he told The New Republic a few months earlier. But Ailes told [Philipstown, NY supervisor Richard] Shea that as president he would send Navy SEAL trainees to the border as part of a certification program: “I would make it a requirement that you would have to personally kill an illegal immigrant coming into the country. They would have to bring home a dead body.” [The Loudest Voice in the Room, pg 392]
Sherman reports that while serving as executive producer of NBC's Tomorrow, Ailes told a young, unemployed job interviewee that he would pay her a higher salary in exchange for sex:
His approach to some young female staffers became a particular flashpoint. While interviewing Randi Harrison, a twenty-something out-of-work producer who had come in from Florida, Ailes steered the conversation onto uncomfortable terrain. According to Harrison, Ailes looked over at his NBC office couch and said, “I have helped a lot of women get ahead and advance their careers in the broadcast television industry.” They were discussing her salary. Ailes offered $400 a week. Harrison told him it was a lowball figure. Ailes made a counteroffer: “If you agree to have sex with me whenever I want I will add an extra hundred dollars a week.”
“I guess we'll be in touch,” Harrison said, getting up to leave. Ailes maneuvered around his desk and gave her a hug. “I remember seeing all the windows in his office and wondering, 'Does he do it here?'” she later said. “I was in tears by the time I hit the street.” [The Loudest Voice in the Room, pg 114]
Sherman wrote that an intermediary later assured her “there would be no more sexual demands” and "[w]ith no other employment alternatives, Harrison became a Tomorrow show researcher -- at $400 a week. 'This was the NBC network. It was New York City. And I needed the job,' she later said. At work, she had few interactions with Ailes." [The Loudest Voice in the Room, pg 115]
Sherman reports on the allegation and fallout regarding Ailes allegedly calling fellow NBC executive and rival David Zaslav “a little fucking Jew prick” in 1995:
Ailes's conflict with Zaslav deepened when he learned that Zaslav had questioned his projections for CNBC. “The bubble broke in the fall,” [then-NBC CEO Bob] Wright said. At a company dinner one evening that September, Ailes declared war on his colleague. “Let's kill the S.O.B.,” he told loyalists dining with him. Then, in a meeting with Zaslav, Ailes allegedly called him “a little fucking Jew prick.” [The Loudest Voice in the Room, pg 161-162]
Sherman writes that NBC tasked an outside employment lawyer named Howard Ganz to conduct an inquiry into the situation. Ganz's initial report found that “there is substantial credible evidence corroborating this allegation -- that I believe the allegation to be true”:
Within two weeks, Ganz detailed his initial findings to NBC. “I have reported to NBC that there is substantial credible evidence corroborating this allegation -- that I believe the allegation to be true,” he noted, regarding the anti-Semitic slur. He found that it occurred “in context of history of abusive, offensive, and intimidating statements/threats and personal attacks reportedly made to and upon a number of other people.” Moreover, Ganz investigated allegations that Ailes had “intimidated and threatened individuals who might be interviewed or have relevant information in connection with matters related to investigation.” It was Ganz's opinion that Ailes's remark to Zaslav could be grounds for “cause termination.” It was a persuasive account. Bob Wright later said that he believed Ganz. “My conclusion was that he probably said it,” Wright recalled, referring to Ailes's comment. [The Loudest Voice in the Room, pg 163]
Ailes later “reached an agreement with NBC and kept his job.” Ailes reportedly agreed to “work constructively and harmoniously with Zaslav,” and Ailes signed a separate agreement with Zaslav. Ailes reportedly did not admit any wrongdoing or issue an apology. [The Loudest Voice in the Room, pg 166]
The New York Times wrote about the episode in a feature on Sherman's book, and reported that Ailes “denied using an anti-Semitic slur against Mr. Zaslav” and Zaslav “also denied it” and “added that he and Mr. Ailes were now friends.”
Ailes On Ground Zero Reconstruction: “We Should Fill The Last Ten Floors With Muslims So They Never Do It Again”
Sherman reports that during a meeting with Bill Clinton, Rupert Murdoch, and top News Corp executives held about a year after 9-11, Ailes “halted” the conversation by offering what one attendee described as an “insane” remark:
His private sentiments about the conflict were shocking. About a year after the attacks, Bill Clinton went for lunch at News Corp with Murdoch and his top executives. Murdoch's communications chief, Gary Ginsberg, who was a former lawyer in the Clinton White House and a key Murdoch emissary to powerful Democrats, brokered the meeting. Talk turned to Ground Zero and plans for reconstruction. The executives around the room offered ideas. When it was Ailes's turn, the conversation halted. “Roger said this insane thing,” one person in the room recalled. “He was talking about rebuilding the towers and he said, 'We should fill the last ten floors with Muslims so they never do it again.” [The Loudest Voice in the Room, pg 264-265]