December 4, 2012

Ailes, campaigning. (Jim Cooper/Associated Press)

Fox News chief Roger Ailes has been busted by The Washington Post’s Bob Woodward for attempting to recruit Gen. David Petraeus to run for president back in the spring of 2011. In other words, playing politics, the profession that Ailes plied for years prior to his broadcasting career.

When confronted by Woodward about his king-making activities, Ailes said this: “I left politics in 1988 because I hated it.” (Bold text added to highlight credibility-damaging deja vu.)

Turn back the clock to November 2002: Ailes issued a statement essentially copping to a book’s claim that he had reached out to the administration of President George W. Bush in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.

In the days following 9/11, our country came together in nonpartisan support for the President. During that time, I wrote a personal note to a White House staff member as a concerned American, expressing my outrage over the attacks on our country. I did not give up my American citizenship to take this job.

Just what sort of outrage did Ailes express to the White House staff member? Uh, well, the book — “Bush at War,” by Woodward — reported that Ailes had apprised the administration that “The American public would tolerate waiting and would be patient, but only as long as they were convinced that Bush was using the harshest measures possible.” No politics there.

Moving further along the timeline of the apolitical Roger Ailes, a Washington Post report from January 1996 contains this line upon his accession to the leadership of the soon-to-be-launched Fox News: “Ailes and Murdoch, both known for their political conservatism, denied that the news network would be anything other than objective in its reporting, with Ailes noting that he has been out of politics ‘for several years.’ “

From the New York Daily News: “In 1992, while preparing a TV show featuring Rush Limbaugh, Ailes claimed he was out of politics and said his contract with the program barred him from political consulting. However, he privately urged [George H.W.] Bush’s reelection campaign to get tough, and he helped the President prepare his acceptance speech at the Republican convention.”

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.