In an interview with Piers Morgan last night, author Gabriel Sherman gave some fascinating insights into just how Roger Ailes uses Fox News as a political messaging tool. Ailes’ own politics are “quite extreme,” according to Sherman. But, as a “brilliant political strategist,” he has worked through moderates to win elections. That’s why he has used Fox to take the side of Mitt Romney and Chris Christie, despite his own personal distaste for them.
Sherman said about the 2012 election:
Roger Ailes has surpassed the GOP. During the 2012 election, he said to his senior executives, “We’re going to have to do a lot to get this guy elected,” meaning Mitt Romney. And he said to Bill Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard and at the time a Fox News contributor, that he did not think Mitt Romney had the spine to, quote, ”rip Obama’s face off.” So Ailes, through Fox, took it upon himself to run Mitt Romney’s media strategy And what was fascinating is that really, For the first time in American history, a Republican candidate’s war room was being run out of the headquarters of a news channel. Mitt Romney’s war room was being run out of Sixth Avenue in midtown Manhattan.
…(The Christie scandal) shows at the heart how FOX is a political messaging organization. Personally, Roger Ailes has no love for Chris Christie. On Election Day, in 2012, when it looked like Romney was going to lose, Ailes grumbled to his most senior team, “Thank you, Chris Christie.” He blamed Christie for the photo-op that he gave Barack Obama with Hurricane Sandy. Now, so personally - Ailes and Christie – no love there. But Ailes is smart enough that he knows that he has to balance the rest of the media. Now someone very close to Ailes that I quote in the book says that Ailes’ meaning of “fair and balanced” is that Fox is the balance on the rest of the media. So Ailes sees it as a political messaging device, that if the media is covering Christie’s Bridgegate, it is Fox’s job to go in another direction. Similarly with Benghazi… He saw it as Fox’s role, he told his executives, that Fox had to drive this story.
For what it’s worth, my own opinion is that Ailes’ defense of Christie is as much about his hatred for Democrats and the mainstream media as it is about any political strategy. But the two always seem to dovetail nicely for him.