Spin Cycle

05.22.12

Ailes Regrets ‘Scum’ Attack on NYT

Fox News chairman backs off harsh language in a college speech

Roger Ailes, who loves to bash the liberal media, used some extraordinarily harsh language the other day--and now realizes it.

In a speech Monday night at Ohio University, his alma mater, the Fox News chairman described New York Times reporters as "a bunch of lying scum."

That's a pretty sweeping indictment of a top newspaper, even by Ailes's blunt standards.

A senior Fox News executive says Ailes realizes he went too far and regrets using that language.

In fact, the executive says, Ailes believes the Times has been fair to Fox under its new executive editor, Jill Abramson. Ailes has gotten to know Abramson over the years and respects her as an editor.

So why did Ailes go off like that, other than his tendency to sometimes get carried away when critiquing what he sees as the left-wing media?

Ailes is still ticked off at one particular Times reporter, Russ Buettner. In an article last year, Buettner reported that Judith Regan, who had been fired by HarperCollins (which, like Fox, is owned by Rupert Murdoch), had identified the company executive who once urged her to lie. That executive, the article said, was Ailes. 

This had to do with a controversy involving Bernie Kerik, the former New York police commissioner with whom Regan had had an affair, and who was close to Rudy Giuliani, then gearing up to run for president. Kerik later went to jail.

In the Times article, a spokeswoman did not deny that Ailes's voice was on a recording of a call with Regan, but said News Corp. had a letter from Regan “stating that Mr. Ailes did not intend to influence her with respect to a government investigation.”

Ailes clearly hasn't forgotten, but he erred in aiming his rough language at the more than 1,200 journalists at the New York Times. Now, the day after, he's trying to walk it back.