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NY Magazine Revelation That Roger Ailes Thinks Sarah Palin Is “An Idiot” Suggests She’s Being Pushed Out Of The Fold

Reported by Ellen - May 22, 2011 -

A fascinating, must-read New York Magazine article about Fox News, Roger Ailes and their relationship to Republican fortunes states: “(Ailes) thinks things are going in a bad direction,” another Republican close to Ailes told me. “Roger is worried about the future of the country. He thinks the election of Obama is a disaster. He thinks Palin is an idiot. He thinks she’s stupid. He helped boost her up. People like Sarah Palin haven’t elevated the conservative movement.” What’s so remarkable about that statement is not just the revelation of Ailes’ opinion of one of his supposed stars but that it became public. As the same article goes on to note, “Fox’s PR department is notoriously strict when it comes to internal leaks” so one has to conclude that this one was not only deliberate but a deliberate attempt to kick Palin to the curb as well - just as she's talking about running for president. But that’s just one of many juicy details about the “news” network that ultimately adds up to a portrait of a GOP political operation that’s the victim of its own ratings success.

Reporter Gabriel Sherman writes,

All the 2012 candidates know that Ailes is a crucial constituency. “You can’t run for the Republican nomination without talking to Roger,” one GOPer told me. “Every single candidate has consulted with Roger.” But he hasn’t found any of them, including the adults in the room—Jon Huntsman, Mitch Daniels, Mitt Romney—compelling. “He finds flaws in every one,” says a person familiar with his thinking.

But Sherman points to evidence that the poor field is at least partly Ailes’ own doing:

That the GOP Establishment’s bench seems so thin now is a by-product of how the party, and Fox, reacted to Obama’s presidency… By October 2008, Ailes recognized that Obama was likely to beat McCain. He needed to give his audience a reason to stay in the stands and watch his team. And so he went on a hiring spree. By the time Obama defeated McCain, Ailes had hired former Bush aide Karl Rove and Mike Huckabee and went on to assemble a whole lineup of prospective 2012 contenders: Palin, Gingrich, Santorum, and John Bolton.

Plus, of course, Glenn Beck.

Sherman goes on to detail what is probably the familiar-to-our-readers rise and fall of Beck. But he also notes, “As Fox was helping to inflate the tea party’s balloon, some of the network’s journalistic ballast was disappearing.” He was referring to the departures of Washington anchor Brit Hume (still a regular, though), long-time news chief John Moody and White House correspondent Major Garrett, among others. Also a factor was the “partisan journalistic agenda” of Hume’s replacement, Bill Sammon. We have previously posted on Media Matters’ excellent exposés of Sammon’s attempts to fix the news around his agenda.

We’ve also posted about how Beck’s spectacular celebrityhood also became a millstone around Fox News’ neck. But in this article, Sherman details how Palin has as well. After clashing over a prime-time special Fox News wanted Sarah Palin to do, which never got done, they further fell out in the wake of the Gabrielle Giffords shooting. Sherman says, “a turning point in their relationship” came when Palin “ignored Ailes’s advice and went ahead and released her now-infamous 'blood libel' video the morning Obama traveled to Tucson. For Ailes, the move was further evidence that Palin was flailing around off-message.” Sherman also states, “Palin’s ratings were starting to disappoint Ailes.”

But there’s also Donald Trump. Sherman claims that Ailes has begun “hedging his bets” of late by promoting news anchor Bret Baier and encouraging Bill O’Reilly “to shoot down the “birther” conspiracy and other assorted right-wing myths that have dogged Obama since his election.” That may well be true. But Sherman somehow overlooked that nearly every other Fox News pundit helped promote the birther conspiracy, including newly-minted host Judge Jeanine Pirro who you’d think would know how to evaluate evidence and reach an independent conclusion. Also, Fox constantly promoted Trump – giving him a regular Monday perch on its morning show as well as assorted platforms on other shows. While it's true O'Reilly made a point of announcing his disagreement with the birth-certificate and other myths, he was never the Fox News anti-Trump. The only Fox News host to play that role was Glenn Beck - after he was on his way out. Fox even made a point of giving Trump a plug on Huckabee immediately following Mike Huckabee's announcement he’d not run in 2012.

When Trump became the laughing stock of political circles the night of the White House Correspondents Dinner, Fox News’ promotion of him looked more than a little ridiculous, too. But if Fox News is now rethinking its strategy with regard to promoting Republicans, there's no evidence it will hold off on inflammatory attacks against President Obama. We recently finished several days where Fox's most important story was the faux controversy over rapper Common to the White House, following hot on the heels of its faux controversy of Obama's Easter worship.

But there are lots of other delicious tidbits in the article: Laura Ingraham was so disagreeable, Sherman says, that people in the newsroom turned on monitors to watch the spectacle of her screaming at her staff. And my personal favorite, that Michelle Obama especially dislikes Sean Hannity. Memo to Hannity: I think it's safe to say you won't be getting that coveted invitation to the White House Christmas party this year, either.

But the most damning part of the article is early on:

A few months ago, Ailes called Chris Christie and encouraged him to jump into the race. Last summer, he’d invited Christie to dinner at his upstate compound along with Rush Limbaugh, and like much of the GOP Establishment, he fell hard for Christie, who nevertheless politely turned down Ailes’s calls to run. Ailes had also hoped that David Petraeus would run for president, but Petraeus too has decided to sit this election out, choosing to stay on the counterterrorism front lines as the head of Barack Obama’s CIA. The truth is, for all the antics that often appear on his network, there is a seriousness that underlies Ailes’s own politics. He still speaks almost daily with George H. W. Bush, one of the GOP’s last great moderates, and a war hero, which especially impresses Ailes.

Can there be any doubt remaining that Fox News is an arm of the GOP? The only question is whether or not that’s ultimately a good thing for them or the GOP. The sad thing is that nowhere in the article does the question arise as to how this impacts our democracy.

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