Blurred lines

Un­der Ailes, Fox News any­thing but ‘ fair and bal­anced’

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - BOOKS - Re­viewed by Roger Currie

ROGER Ailes, the 73-year-old head of Ru­pert Mur­doch’s Fox News Net­work, has been the sub­ject of a few books over the years. Most of them, in­clud­ing this one by New York­based jour­nal­ist Gabriel Sher­man, have been unau­tho­rized. Ailes is a man who has made a ca­reer out of con­trol­ling the mes­sage, whether it be as a TV broad­caster or a po­lit­i­cal op­er­a­tive. His ca­reer co­in­cided with a def­i­nite blur­ring of the lines be­tween those two worlds. In the 1990s, ca­ble news emerged as a ma­jor defin­ing player in the po­lit­i­cal process in the U.S. Here in Canada, we have not seen any­thing quite like it. Sun TV, owned the Que­becor em­pire and some­times de­scribed as “Fox north,” has been a dis­mal fail­ure. Roger Ailes is a com­plex char­ac­ter who grew up in small-town Ohio. He got his start in TV as a “gopher” on the Mike Dou­glas Show, a lo­cal day­time talk pro­gram that be­gan in Cleve­land in 1961. (The show later moved to Philadel­phia and went na­tional.) Sher­man says Ailes re­al­ized vir­tu­ally from his first day on the job that both TV and pol­i­tics would be his fu­ture. As far back as 1967 he al­lied him­self with the Repub­li­cans, and quickly be­came at­tached to Richard Nixon’s cam­paign for the White House. Along the way, Ailes suc­ceeded in cre­at­ing a few myths for him­self. Af­ter his dis­as­trous show­ing in the first TV de­bates dur­ing his 1960 cam­paign against John F. Kennedy, Nixon would gladly have avoided the medium for the rest of his days. Ailes is cred­it­ing with loos­en­ing up “Tricky Dick” in front of the cam­eras. He claims things turned around when Nixon ap­peared on the Mike Dou­glas Show along­side a no­to­ri­ous belly dancer known as Lit­tle Egypt. Sher­man in­ter­viewed more than 600 sources for his book, but ap­par­ently wasn’t able to find any­one who could ver­ify the Lit­tle Egypt story. Ailes was never quite part of Nixon’s in­ner cir­cle at the White House af­ter he was elected in 1968, which may ex­plain how he was able to leave the scene without wear­ing any of the Water­gate mess that brought that ad­min­is­tra­tion down in 1974. By the time Nixon and his wife Pat boarded the chop­per for the last time on the White House lawn, Roger Ailes was im­mersed in a rel­a­tively brief ex­cur­sion as a pro­ducer of New York the­atre. His most no­table credit there was a pro­duc­tion of the Lan­ford Wil­son play Hot l Bal­ti­more that won some awards, and even­tu­ally ran for more than 1,600 per­for­mances. Ailes was very ac­tive in the pres­i­den­tial cam­paigns of Ron­ald Rea­gan and Ge­orge H.W. Bush, but in the 1990s shifted his fo­cus ex­clu­sively to the world of TV news. Af­ter rel­a­tively brief stints with a fledg­ling chan­nel called Amer­ica’s Talk­ing, as well as some time at MSNBC, he ac­cepted the chal­lenge of tak­ing on Ted Turner’s CNN in the main event of the ca­ble-news bat­tle. With his the­atre ex­pe­ri­ence, it’s not sur­pris­ing he was de­ter­mined that TV news would be en­ter­tain­ing. That’s un­doubt­edly why Fox has re­lied on larger-than-life per­son­al­i­ties such as Glen Beck, Bill O’Reilly and Sean Han­nity. Un­der the lead­er­ship of Ailes, the shame­lessly par­ti­san Repub­li­can Fox News dined out more than its com­peti­tors on the White­wa­ter and Mon­ica Lewinsky scan­dals dur­ing the Clin­ton years in Wash­ing­ton. They also gave it all they had to per­suade Amer­i­cans to vote for Mitt Rom­ney in 2012. While Ailes has been mostly un­suc­cess­ful in those po­lit­i­cal ob­jec­tives at Fox, he has suc­ceeded in mak­ing tons of money for Ru­pert Mur­doch. Fox News is a money ma­chine, bring­ing in more than triple the au­di­ence and rev­enue of CNN. When all is said and done, The Loud­est Voice in the Room is a gen­uine page-turner, es­pe­cially for me­dia or po­lit­i­cal junkies. It would make a very com­pelling movie for one of Mur­doch’s other as­sets. Roger Currie is a Win­nipeg writer and broad­caster. He presents the

news each morn­ing on CJNU 93.7 FM.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.