Fox News has been busy battening down the hatches in advance of New York Magazine reporter Gabriel Sherman‘s new book on network president Roger Ailes, called The Loudest Voice in the Room (Random House). Ailes and company have already been attempting to discredit the reporter and undercut some of the less flattering anecdotes that the book has been serving up, even before its release. But most of those efforts have been in vain, as snippets that have already circulated make headlines.
It started with an article by New York Times reporters Julie Bosman and Bill Carter, who pulled together some choice anecdotes after reading an advance copy of the book. Here are some of the highlights from their article:
On Ailes’ grand ambitions:
Roger Ailes was so eager to influence national politics that in the run-up to the 2012 presidential election, he told fellow Fox News executives point-blank: “I want to elect the next president.”
On how he speaks of his employees:
At Fox News, the book says, Mr. Ailes was disdainful of even his most bankable on-air talent, privately calling Bill O’Reilly “a book salesman with a TV show” and Brian Kilmeade, a peppy Fox host, “a soccer coach from Long Island.”
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On Ailes’ treatment of one staffer, during the ’80s:
Former employees cited in the book talked of Mr. Ailes’s volatile temper and domineering behavior. In one anecdote, a television producer, Randi Harrison, told Mr. Sherman that while negotiating her salary with Mr. Ailes at NBC in the 1980s, he offered her an additional $100 each week “if you agree to have sex with me whenever I want.”
On the anti-Obama ad run by Fox News during the 2012 presidential race:
At the beginning of the general election, a four-minute video criticizing President Obama’s policies was broadcast on “Fox and Friends,” provoking outrage from the left and prompting the network to say publicly that Mr. Ailes had no involvement in its creation. In The Loudest Voice in the Room, Mr. Sherman writes that the video “was Ailes’s brainchild.”
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New York Magazine also this week published an excerpt from the book itself, which mostly focuses on Ailes’ move to Garrison, New York, a small town in Putnam County. The story of how Ailes bought the local paper, the Putnam County News & Recorder, and turned it into a small-time version of Fox News paints a picture of a rather petty man, obsessed with politics and revenge. Here are some key quotes from the excerpt:
On the Ailes family secret bunker:
Roger and [wife] Beth also bought up as many surrounding houses as they could. Security cameras were installed throughout the property. “A team of landscapers was, in the absence of the Ailes family, working on the grounds of the compound,” [local resident Lenora] Burton later recounted. “They were planting a tree when the boss’s cell phone rang. It was the absent Beth. ‘No, no,’ she said. ‘That’s not where I want the tree. I insist that you move it.’ She directed them to the correct site. The landscapers were puzzled until they realized that the many security cameras on the grounds had captured them at work. Beth had been watching them from wherever she was and called to correct the tree planting.” Other local contractors helped install a bunker that could weather a terrorist attack underneath their mansion. “He can live in there for more than six months,” a friend who has visited it said. “There are bedrooms, a couple of TVs, water, and freeze-dried food.” “I’m not allowed to talk about it,” Ailes’s older brother Robert said. “I think the proper term is a ‘panic room.’ ”
On Ailes’ objection to a proposed zoning plan:
The notion of zoning was abhorrent to Ailes. The more he studied the issue, the more he disliked what he found. “Jesus, wait a minute,” he told a reporter, describing his thought process. “They’re starting to try and tell you how much glass you can have in your window, what color you can paint your house, and they’re saying, well, ‘You can’t cut down any trees.’ ” He added, “God made trees so you can build houses and have baseball bats.” He felt that he had a right to chop down any tree, and that the legal implications were obvious: “They’re going around to old ladies and telling them if they have a mud puddle they’re in a wetland and stealing their farm and stuff.”
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On his questionable use of quotations at a town hall meeting:
After thanking the board and the citizens for their turnout, he had a lecture about American history to deliver. “George Washington said, ‘A violation of my land is a violation of my being,’ ” he intoned. “That is in our core for 230 years.” Ailes loved to quote Washington, but this saying does not appear in any archive of Washington’s writings or speeches.
On why he thought the local school “sucks”:
“There’s no Christ child on the lawn at Christmastime!” Ailes said. “They have all this f*cking Kwanzaa stuff, they have this Hanukkah shit, and you can’t even get Jesus! They think it’s illegal. You can’t show any flags. So I’m not sending our kid there.”
On his attempt to quash rebellion in the ranks at the Putnam County News & Recorder:
When [intern Carli-Rae] Panny went back to the office a few days later to offer her resignation in person, Roger and Beth screamed at her for an hour. They accused her of spreading dirt about them and asked her to sign a non-disparagement agreement that they had already prepared. Panny refused to look at the document and left. After a few days in D.C., [Joe Lindsley, the 25-year old editor-in-chief] returned to his apartment in Cold Spring and noticed strange cars parked out front. As he drove to lunch that day, he saw a black Lincoln Navigator in his rearview mirror. He stopped his Jeep at a red light. When he saw the Lincoln swerve off the road into a construction site, he floored the gas as soon as the light turned green and headed back toward his apartment. Back in Cold Spring, Lindsley spotted the SUV on a side street and decided to turn the tables. He drove straight toward it. The Lincoln sped off. After a few blocks, his pursuer pulled over. Lindsley drove up alongside the driver and recognized him as a News Corp. security officer. Later, Lindsley called the agent and asked if he was sent to follow him. He said Ailes told him to.
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In response, Ailes has questioned the book’s veracity, telling The Hollywood Reporter: “I think it was Bette Davis — ‘What other people think of me is none of my business.’ Attacking me and Fox News is nothing new — it’s a cottage industry. What’s new is that Random House refused to fact check the content with me or Fox News; that tells you everything you need to know about this book and its agenda.”
Sherman, in response, made a statement rebutting Ailes’ fact-checking claim. “During two and a half years of reporting, I made a dozen requests both in writing and in person to speak with Roger Ailes about every aspect of my book, The Loudest Voice in the Room,” he told Politico. “A team of two fact-checkers spent more than 2,000 hours vetting the manuscript before publication. Roger Ailes declined every request to discuss the reporting with me.”
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