During a lengthy report on Donald Trump’s campaign, author Gabriel Sherman claimed that Donald Trump’s sway over Fox News was at least partly because he had information “bombs” that could destroy Fox and CEO Roger Ailes.
From Sherman’s April 3 New York Magazine article:
An odd bit of coincidence had given him [Trump] a card to play against Fox founder Roger Ailes. In 2014, I published a biography of Ailes, which upset the famously paranoid executive. Several months before it landed in stores, Ailes fired his longtime PR adviser Brian Lewis, accusing him of being a source. During Lewis’s severance negotiations, Lewis hired Judd Burstein, a powerhouse litigator, and claimed he had “bombs” that would destroy Ailes and Fox News. That’s when Trump got involved.
“When Roger was having problems, he didn’t call 97 people, he called me,” Trump said. Burstein, it turned out, had worked for Trump briefly in the ’90s, and Ailes asked Trump to mediate. Trump ran the negotiations out of his office at Trump Tower. “Roger had lawyers, very expensive lawyers, and they couldn’t do anything. I solved the problem.” Fox paid Lewis millions to go away quietly, and Trump, I’m told, learned everything Lewis had planned to leak. If Ailes ever truly went to war against Trump, Trump would have the arsenal to launch a retaliatory strike.
Color me skeptical. There are too many improbabilities in this scenario for me. The biggest red flag is the scenario, itself. If Trump was mediating at Ailes’ request, why would Lewis confide everything he supposedly planned to leak? Wouldn’t he merely hint or give a broad outline of the dope he had, leaving it to Ailes’ imagination as to the breadth and scope, rather than show his hand ahead of time?
Erik Wemple, media columnist for The Washington Post is another skeptic. He pointed out that Trump has been feuding (on and off) with Fox News since last August and Fox has occasionally blasted Trump with the kind of fiery rhetoric you wouldn’t expect from an organization worried about a guy like Trump splashing its secrets across the rest of the media. And Trump hasn't acted like a trustworthy confidant:
Folded into Sherman’s analysis is the premise that Trump is practicing self-restraint until such as time as Ailes “truly” goes to war with him. Trump is waiting, waiting, waiting for hostilities with Fox News to reach peak brute — then, and only then, will Trump unlock the file and slime Ailes. With what conception of Trump does such a possibility comport? None. The record shows that Trump requires very little provocation before he starts firing. Look at what he did just a couple of weeks ago to Heidi Cruz, the wife of rival Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.). Over Twitter, Trump threatened to “spill the beans” on her — and for what? Look also at the nicknames and taunts he has sent in the direction of his rivals. Is this a guy who keeps his powder dry?
Wemple also raises the question of Sherman’s sourcing.
And finally, there’s the matter of Trump’s credibility to narrate a story about anything, even himself. If he’s not a proven liar, he proceeds with a reckless disregard for the truth, even when he gets called out on his falsehoods. This matters in the Sherman piece. Have another look at the key sentence: “Fox paid Lewis millions to go away quietly, and Trump, I’m told, learned everything Lewis had planned to leak.” Italics added to highlight a clever bit of sourcing — who’s doing the telling here? One source, two sources? Is Trump one of them? Because if he is, it’s not reliable.
For what it’s worth, I suspect there’s at least a kernel of truth in Sherman’s piece. Clearly, Ailes and Trump have a long-term friendship. In her recent discussion with Katie Couric about Trump, Megyn Kelly said she thought Trump felt betrayed by her now-infamous question to him about whether his comments about women showed a presidential temperament. Kelly said it in the context of Trump’s attempts to curry favor with her. But it quite possibly went beyond.
So let’s say Trump has some dirt on Ailes. Why hasn’t it been spilled yet? I think we can rule out discretion, loyalty, ethics or code of honor as the reasons. That leaves fear. So either Ailes has dirt on Trump that he’s afraid will get aired in retaliation or Trump is just afraid of Ailes’ retaliation, period. or the so-called bomb Trump has is more like a sparkler.
What do you think? Share your thoughts below.
Hmmmm…, Cruz and Faux need to start firing at each other to make this firing squad more circular.
Somebody pop the popcorn!
Besides when you have the amount of power and money, not to mention a building full of lawyers already on the payroll waiting for something to do you know that these two can easily buy and spin their way out of anything. That’s the way the world works, and they know it as well as we all do.
My guess is the fear of Trump has nothing to do with damaging information, but the fear of alienating the Fox News viewer who support Trump. It’s all about ratings and generating advertising revenue.
It’s like watching an old monster movie where the monster turns on its creator, isn’t it?