Speed Read

03.20.13

16 Juiciest Bits From the Roger Ailes Biography

The New York Times trashed Roger Ailes: Off Camera, but that doesn’t mean there isn't plenty of fun to be had with this juicy bio. We speed-read the book to bring you the biggest revelations, from why he doesn’t give to Muslim charities to how he bullied Time magazine.

His father was abusive.
“When he got mad, he beat me,” Ailes told Chafets. “He used an electric cord, a belt, whatever was handy.” Ailes said his father would go to jail if he did what he did today.

He thinks the liberal media is like Hitler and Stalin.
Ailes once asked someone if he was satisfied with CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, MSNBC, and PBS. The man said yes. “If they all have the same take and we have a different take, why does that bother you?” Ailes said. “The last two guys who succeeded in lining up the media on one side were Hitler and Stalin.”

He thinks Muslim charities are armed.
According to Chafets, Ailes donates some 10 percent of his net income to charities. He gives $50,000 a year to the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, and another $50,000 to Catholic charities. “He told me he’d be glad to give to Muslim charities, too, ‘if they disarm.’”

Obama was upset at Sean Hannity.
During the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama was upset by Sean Hannity’s nightly bashing. So he arranged a sit-down with Ailes and his boss, Rupert Murdoch, in a private room at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York. “Nobody who watches Sean’s going to vote for you anyway,” Ailes said. When Ailes said he was concerned about Obama making cuts to the military, Obama replied that he didn’t advocate unilateral cuts. “He never dropped his gaze, which is the usual tell. It was as good a lie as anyone ever told me,” Ailes said. “I said, ‘Senator, I just watched someone say exactly that on my computer screen before coming over here. Maybe it wasn’t you, but it sure looked like you and sounded like you. I think it was you.’” That ended the sit-down.

He hates CNN with a passion.
“The only thing more important to Ailes than beating CNN is CNN losing to Fox,” Fox News anchor Shepard Smith once told Chafets. “I wouldn't say he wants everyone over there dead, but it's close.”

Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity hate each other.
How good is Ailes at managing his staff? Chafets writes that Bill O’Reilly is “not a candidate for colleague of the year at Fox.” O’Reilly and Sean Hannity don’t speak to each other, and O’Reilly doesn’t “hand off” his program to Hannity, which he claims is a technical issue—though not for other programs. Hannity corroborates the claim that they don’t talk to each other—“quite a feat considering the two men work on the same floor, within a hundred feet of each other’s offices.”

Bill Cosby stole my joke.
Yup, this is not a joke. Ailes claims that he wrote a skit for The Mike Douglas Show that was stolen by Bill Cosby. “I wrote one about two guys playing chess and what they were really thinking as the game went on. A few years later I was watching ‘Hollywood Palace’ and damn if Cosby wasn’t doing the bit. Not bad, getting a piece of comedy stolen by Bill Cosby.”

He doesn’t belong to a church.
“I’ve been kicked out of every damn church I’ve ever belonged to,” Ailes said. Chafets writes that “it is a buccaneer’s boast, meant to convey a hard-core irreverence” and to distinguish him from other born-again Christians like Mike Huckabee.

Fox news is not programming to conservatives.
Ailes claims that Fox News is not a conservative network—it’s just honest. “Most of the media bullshit you about who they are. We don’t. We’re not programming to conservatives, we’re just not eliminating their point of view.”

He bullied Time to go easy on Rush Limbaugh.
When Limbaugh was working for Ailes, and didn’t like where he thought a Time cover story about him was going, he told Ailes, who called up the magazine. “I sat in his office during the call,” Limbaugh told Chafets. “He told them if they persisted in this, we on the show would do features on all of the reporters working on the story. That we would hire investigators to look into their backgrounds, find out how many DUIs they had, run a story demonstrating the similarities of these reporters to [pornographer] Al Goldstein. It was a virtuoso performance. I was laughing my ass off. And I think it worked to an extent because when the story came out, it was basically harmless.”

“Newt’s a prick.”
During the 2012 Republican primary, Newt Gingrich complained that Fox News supported Mitt Romney. “Brush him back,” Ailes said. “He’s a sore loser and if he had won he would have been a sore winner.” Then he added, “Newt’s a prick.”

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‘Roger Ailes: Off Camera’ by Zev Chafets. 272 pp. Sentinel HC. $27. ()

Obama is lazy.
While being told of Democratic operative Hilary Rosen’s comment that Romney’s wife, Ann, a mother of five, never worked a day in her life, Ailes said: “Obama’s the one who never worked a day in his life. He never earned a penny that wasn’t public money. How many fund-raisers does he attend every week? How often does he play basketball and golf? I wish I had that kind of time. He’s lazy, but the media won’t report that.” Chafets gave him a look, but Ailes claimed that “I didn’t come up with that” and that Obama himself said that. What Obama said during an interview with Barbara Walters was that he feels a laziness in himself that he attributes to his laid-back upbringing in Hawaii.

Joe Biden’s “dumb as an ashtray.”
“I have a soft spot for Joe Biden,” Ailes once said. “I like him. But he’s dumb as an ashtray.”

He’s more conservative than Fox News.
Ailes took a test of partisanship and scored a 25, where 0 is extremely conservative and 100 is extremely liberal. He said he was more conservative than his network, and “I could never be elected.”

But he has liberal friends.
He gets along with Rachel Maddow, Jesse Jackson, Chris Cuomo, and Barbara Walters, whom he dated many years ago. He’s close to the Kennedy family, particularly Robert Kennedy, Jr.

He hates unions and “extreme environmentalists.”
If he were hypothetically elected, Ailes said that he would repeal laws, get rid of the Affordable Care Act, cut the federal budget, and cut taxes. He considers unions to be job killers. And although “I want clean water and clean air and conservation … that’s not what extreme environmentalists are all about. For them, it is a religion. They believe in trees and animals, not God.”