Vanity Fair published a three-page (online) excerpt from a new, extensive biography on Fox News CEO Roger Ailes by Zev Chafets. Chafets is well-known for a biography he wrote on conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh.
The Ailes bio, “Roger Ailes: Off Camera,” is due out in book stores Mar. 19. TheBlaze pulled some of the highlights from the VF preview.
Roger Ailes and his boss Rupert Murdoch are close friends “to a point.”: “Murdoch often drops by Ailes’s office to joke and gossip about politics. ‘Roger and I have a close personal friendship,’ he told me. Ailes agrees—up to a point.
“‘Does Rupert like me? I think so, but it doesn’t matter. When I go up to the magic room in the sky every three months, if my numbers are right, I get to live. If not, I’m killed. Our relationship isn’t about love—it’s about arithmetic. Survival means hitting your numbers. I’ve met or exceeded mine in 56 straight quarters. The reason is: I treat Rupert’s money like it is mine.’”
“A Prick”: What Ailes thinks of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich: “One day during the 2012 primary season, Newt Gingrich complained that Fox News’s support for Mitt Romney was responsible for Gingrich’s poor showing. Rick Santorum had made a similar claim when he dropped out of the race. Gingrich and Santorum had been Fox commentators before getting into the race, and Ailes found their complaints self-serving and disloyal. Brian Lewis, his spokesman, asked Ailes for guidance on how to respond to Newt. ‘Brush him back,’ Ailes said. ‘He’s a sore loser and if he had won he would have been a sore winner.’ Lewis nodded.
“Ailes was silent for a moment and then added, ‘Newt’s a prick.’”
Ailes has a “soft spot” for the vice president: “‘I like Marco Rubio,’ Ailes told a staff meeting of Fox News Latino when talk about the Florida senator being Mitt Romney’s vice-presidential pick was at fever pitch. ‘But I don’t know about as a vice-presidential candidate. He’s a nice guy, and that role requires kicking the crap out of your opponents.’ He paused, thinking about vice presidents he had known. ‘I have a soft spot for Joe Biden,’ he said. ‘I like him. But he’s dumb as an ashtray.’”
As for President Obama, he’s “lazy”: “‘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.’ He noticed my arched eyebrows and added, ‘I didn’t come up with that. Obama said that, to Barbara Walters.’ (What Obama said was that he feels a laziness in himself that he attributes to his laid-back upbringing in Hawaii.)”
Ailes once met with Obama, who had complaints specifically about Sean Hannity: “After some pleasantries, [then-Sen.] Obama got to the point. He was concerned about the way he was being portrayed on Fox, and his real issue wasn’t the news; it was Sean Hannity, who had been battering him every night at nine (and on his radio show, which Fox doesn’t own or control). Ailes didn’t deny that Hannity was anti-Obama. He simply told the candidate not to worry about it. ‘Nobody who watches Sean’s going to vote for you anyway,’ he said.
He considers himself “a bad ass”: “Ailes revels in his image as a tough-guy. He is fond of recalling rougher times, like the night he punched a hole in the wall of an NBC control room where he was producing The Tomorrow Show. ‘It was just a drywall, and luckily I didn’t hit any beams. But somebody put a frame around the hole and wrote, “don’t mess with roger ailes.” If you have a reputation as a badass, you don’t need to fight.’”
On the after life: “‘Because of my hemophilia, I’ve been prepared to face death all of my life. As a boy I spent a lot of time in hospitals. My parents had to leave at the end of visiting hours, and I spent a lot of time just lying there in the dark, thinking about the fact that any accident could be dangerous or even fatal. So I’m ready. Everybody fears the unknown. But I have a strong feeling there’s something bigger than us. I don’t think all this exists because some rocks happened to collide. I’m at peace. When it comes, I’ll be fine, calm. I’ll miss life, though. Especially my family.’ …
“‘I’m pretty sure that God’s got a sense of humor,’ he said. ‘I think he gets a laugh out of me from time to time, so I suppose things will be all right.’
‘”What if you get there and it turns out that God is a liberal?’ I asked.
“‘Ailes paused. It was something that evidently hadn’t occurred to him. ‘Well, hell, if God’s a liberal, that’s his business,’ he said. He paused again, imagining it. ‘But I doubt very much that he is. He’s got a good heart.’”