Fox News chief Roger Ailes is speaking at Ohio University today. There’s nothing wrong with that per se. Ailes is certainly an important figure and OU is his alma mater. But what is troubling is the likelihood that he will be presented as a credible journalist and the unlikelihood that his questionable practices will receive any serious challenge. All you need to do is follow the money to understand why.
In 2007, Ailes donated so much money to OU’s student journalism facilities, he got the students’ newsroom named after him. What are the chances that any OU official will do anything to suggest that a benefactor whose name is now synonymous with their communications school is anything less than an upstanding figure in American journalism? This quote from OU Professor Robert Ingram in OU’s The Post is one clue:
“I invited him to present to the Forum because I thought his visit might spark a good discussion about free speech and the media,” Ingram said. “Ailes is perhaps the most influential newsman in America today, while OU has a first-rate school of journalism.”
But as Robert Greenwald lays out in an article in AlterNet today, there’s another monetary incentive for OU to help polish Ailes’ image: Koch money. Greenwald notes that the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation serves as an underwriter of the George Washington Forum, which is the OU group hosting Ailes’ speech. Greenwald goes on to say:
As detailed in my film Koch Brothers Exposed, Charles Koch is a billionaire industrialist and one of the leading financiers of the American Right. He is known to meddle in educational institutions, infamously attaching strings to university donations by insisting he be able to veto a school’s hiring decisions. Students and faculty at schools like Florida State University are fighting this corruption valiantly, but the encroachment on academic integrity and freedom remains a threat.
In the case of Ohio University, the full extent of Koch’s donations to the George Washington Forum isn’t known. But we do know that Koch specifically underwrote a talk the Forum hosted by John Yoo, author of the Bush torture memos (belying Charles and his brother David’s claims that their ideological activism is restricted to economic issues). We also know that through the Forum, the Charles Koch Foundation awards grants to students “interested in studying free market ideas” under an OU professor who researches conservative politics and economics. Students applying for the grant in the past have had to write an essay about a book by libertarian Henry Hazlitt. Is it just me, or does it look like Charles Koch is paying the university to spread his right-wing ideology?
Fox is always complaining about “liberal indoctrination” in American schools. And yet you never hear any complaints about tactics designed to inculcate right-wing beliefs. There's no reason to expect it will come up at Ailes’ lecture, either.
The Ohio University graduates have been exposed to the worst in journalism.
Reading messages on our mobile phone is more entertaining than listening to this fraud speak on stage.