Rupert Murdoch dismissed a report that CEO Roger Ailes has been a “diminished force” at Fox News while Murdoch has taken a more prominent role. But if you carefully read Murdoch’s description of his and Ailes’ roles, he does not contradict the allegations.
As I posted late last week, New York’s Gabriel Sherman wrote, “According to four high-placed Fox sources, Murdoch is upping his presence at Fox while Ailes has become less visible to anchors and producers, signaling a shift that marks a new chapter in the network’s history.” The gist of the article is that the chain of command at Fox has become murky as Murdoch strengthens his hand, as Ailes moves toward retirement, and there is internal jockeying for succession.
Fortune interviewed Murdoch about the allegations. The headline of its article reads, “Exclusive: Roger Ailes Taking a Backseat Is ‘Bullshit,’ Rupert Murdoch Says.” It’s worth pointing out that Fortune seemed to make no attempt to do any other reporting on the subject or to fact check any of Murdoch’s claims. But looking at them closely, nothing strikes me as incompatible with Sherman’s article.
For example, there’s this exchange between Murdoch and interviewer Andrew Nusca:
I’m just calling because I thought you might want to say something about the Gabe Sherman report about Roger Ailes taking a backseat at Fox News.
Oh, I thought you were calling Roger and they put you on to me.
I’ve got every confidence in Roger, you know? His health is fine. It’s true he had a little problem with his back for awhile, but otherwise, he’s micromanaging the place just as much as ever.
Obviously Gabe Sherman has been reporting a lot on you folks over the years.
He’s got an agenda. Mmmhmm.
Murdoch never says Ailes is not in a "backseat." And “micromanaging the place just as much as ever” doesn’t quite mean “he’s in full control as much as ever.” If anything, “micromanaging” suggests not “macro-managing.” In fact, Murdoch’s next response very much suggests he’s the one in charge:
What is misunderstood about how this company is run? What insight can you lend me how responsibilities are divvyed up?
Well I’m the boss and I tend to dip into things a lot. Basically, big decisions come through me. Lachlan is my right hand, he’s co-chairman [of News Corp], and my son James is chief executive. I still have, you know, Chase Carey in the next office to consult on big issues and I have the rest of the corporate suite—the CFO is terrific.
Nusca appears to have asked about Fox News and Murdoch answered about the parent company. Ailes' name wasn't even mentioned.
Now let’s look at what Murdoch called “bullshit.”
Is this all just overblown, the idea that Roger is taking a backseat?
Oh, it’s bullshit. Absolutely.
It’s not true. When I go down to him he’s always talking to talent or fixing things or making decisions about debates. He’s, you know, got a great and loyal team but he’s totally involved.
Again, Murdoch paints Ailes as more of a micromanager than a captain steering the company into the future and mapping out a long-range strategy.
When asked if he had “thoughts on how Roger should look at” retirement, Murdoch responded:
Oh look, he’s training people—I don’t think he’s even got to make a choice. A recommendation, certainly, but you know, he’s not planning any retirement either. (chuckles)
In other words, Ailes will make “a recommendation” for his successor but the ultimate decision will be out of his hands.
That is not to say that everyone should just accept Sherman’s reporting as truth, especially since it relied on anonymous sources. In his scathing post on the subject (overly scathing, in my view), Mediaite’s conservative Joe Concha notes that Sherman’s sources have not always been reliable. It’s frustrating that Nusca didn’t seem to make much of an effort to pin down Murdoch about the heart of Sherman’s piece and try to determine whether or not Murdoch has actually increased his role at Fox. In the meanwhile, underneath the denial, none of the specifics here say that he hasn’t.
Roger Ailes graphic by DonkeyHotey.
Well, of course ‘ol Rupe’s still in charge — he doesn’t have a choice.
He’s about to become a married man (again.) Now, it would be one thing if he was marrying Jane Rightwing Citizen, but, his betrothed is one Miss Jerry Faye Hall — and, if the former reality TV series “Kept” is any indication:
Kept is a reality television series that centered on Jerry Hall (model and ex-wife to Mick Jagger) searching for a kept man. The show premiered on the American cable network VH1 in late May 2005. When Hall narrowed the list down to twelve, she spirited them off to London and eliminated them one by one.
The final three consisted of Anwar, Austen and Seth. In the August 4 finale, Hall was torn between Austen and Seth but ultimately chose Seth as he knew how to have fun and she thought he had matured throughout the process. Seth claims that he got his $100,000 in prize money but after filming stopped he never saw Jerry, the penthouse apartment, or the Lamborghini again.
he’s gonna have to be in charge for some time in order to be able to continue to keep her in the lifestyle to which she’s become accustomed.
Best wishes to you and your intended, Rupert. You know what they say, “fourth time the charm” . . .