In a fresh interview, Larry King asks Dan Rather whether Fox News is an “actual part of the Republican Party.” Rather gives it some consideration, then produces an answer that can best be summed up as kind-of-but-not-totally. Here, the full Rather response:
I understand that argument; I think it goes too far. Which is to say, I think Ailes considers himself still a part of the Republican Party, I think insofar as he’s able to, that he wants his channel that way. But I don’t want to indict everybody at Fox News Channel ’cause I know some of the pros there who are pretty good. I don’t want to dance around your question, but I do think that Roger Ailes, say this about him: He is a very good businessman. He’s very smart about television and he built a network when I, for one, wasn’t at all sure he could do so. And has he used it to benefit the Republican Party? Yes, the record is very clear on that, but is it a solo operative and propaganda machine for the party? I’d have to stop short of that.
Fine. As this blog reported last year, Fox News does pack a lot of hard news into its dayside programming — not that these stories on crime and current events mean that those daytime hours are objective. Whenever politics rears its head, so does Fox News’s famous tilt.
Both King and Rather, however, should consider consulting Gabriel Sherman’s new book on Fox News (“The Loudest Voice in the Room“). In the book’s prologue, Sherman addresses a four-minute video/anti-Obama attack ad that aired on the network in 2012. It kicked up a ruckus, at which point Fox News declared that Ailes was “not aware” of the thing and blamed some employee. No way, reports Sherman: It was the boss’s “brainchild.”
Another tell-tale moment came in December 2012, when The Post’s Bob Woodward reported that Ailes, in spring 2011, had asked Fox News analyst K.T. McFarland to deliver a message to then-Gen. David Petraeus while he was stationed in Afghanistan: If the president offers you the chairmanship of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, grab it; if not, bag the military and run for president. I might even quit and join your campaign. When Woodward later asked Ailes about the matter, the network chief responded, “It was more of a joke, a wiseass way I have. I thought the Republican field [in the primaries] needed to be shaken up and Petraeus might be a good candidate.”
Perhaps McFarland is not among the “pros” to whom Rather refers. In any case, Sherman’s book serves to cement the case that these “pros” work at a channel where the boss carefully monitors and controls the programming, even though he doesn’t always stand behind it.
Bonus: King asked Rather about Ailes’s contention in a recent Hollywood Reporter interview that the legendary CBS News anchor “hated” Richard Nixon. Rather responded that the charge “simply isn’t true” and isn’t “worth discussing.” Continued Rather: “What is true . . . Richard Nixon hated Dan Rather and CBS News. That’s a matter of record, and Roger Ailes was, for all the things he’s accomplished, Roger Ailes was an operative for Richard Nixon. You certainly expect him to say something like this. Frankly, I don’t take it personally. I don’t take it seriously.”