Roger Ailes wows conservatives in accepting Bradley prize

June 13, 2013

Roger Ailes, the chairman and architect of the Fox News Channel, picked up a $250,000 award from a conservative foundation Wednesday night at the Kennedy Center, and served up some red meat to the largely conservative crowd gathered to honor him.

The prize came from the Milwaukee-based Bradley Foundation, which honored Ailes and three others with its 10th annual Bradley Prize for promoting public policies consistent with the foundation’s conservative mission (the group’s goals include school choice, welfare reform and limited government).

Roger Ailes, chairman and chief executive officer of Fox News, speaks during the Summer Television Critics Association Press Tour in Pasadena, Calif., in this Monday, July 24, 2006.
Roger Ailes, chairman and chief executive officer of Fox News, speaks during the Summer Television Critics Association Press Tour in Pasadena, Calif., in this Monday, July 24, 2006.

Ailes delighted the full house by slamming President Obama, and liberals in general, in his acceptance speech.

To vigorous applause, he implied that the Obama administration had abandoned its duty to protect American diplomats and personnel during last year’s attacks in Benghazi, Libya. “I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t even care what the president of the United States was doing that night,” he said. “However, I would like to know what the commander-in-chief was doing that night.”

He also told a shaggy-dog story about the difference between liberals and conservatives.

It seems a liberal in a hot-air balloon is lost and late for an appointment and descends to ask a conservative for directions. The conservative pulls out a GPS device and tells him exactly where he is.

“You must be a conservative,” the balloon man says. The man on the ground asks how he knows that. The reply: “Everything you’ve told me is technically correct, I have no idea what to make of your information, and the fact is, I’m still lost. Frankly, you haven’t been very much help so far.”

The conservative replies that the balloon guy must be a liberal. How does he know? The punch line: “You don’t know where you’re going or where you’ve been, you’ve risen to where you are on hot air, and you made a promise that you have no idea how to keep. Now you expect me to solve your problems. The fact is, you’re in the same place you were before we met and now it’s my fault!”
Turning serious, Ailes offered a spirited critique of multiculturalism:

“We must stop waving our extended arms in an effort to balance ourselves as we tiptoe along the edges of the Constitution in an effort not to upset weak-kneed appeasers with our unflinching belief in the ideas that made our country different and, yes, great,” he said. “Are we losing America to the inevitable onrushing tide of history? No. But we’re in a storm, the mast is broken, the compass is off , and there’s a damn big hole in the boat. We have allowed ourselves to be manipulated by others, many of whom want to impose their culture and laws under the manufactured utopian idea that all all cultures are equal and most of them are better than America….America is a culture, it has a culture, and it must be recognized….We must not allow our collective memory to fade or morph into trendy revisionist versions of political correctness, which become a substitute for the truth.”

It wasn’t exactly clear who or what he was referring to, but the audience ate it up.

The foundation’s other honorees were  former Indiana governor Mitch Daniels (R); Bush administration solicitor general Paul D. Clement; and National Affairs quarterly founding editor Yuval Levin.

Also in attendance: Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), former Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore (R) and a slew of Fox News folk, including Greta van Susteren, Brit Hume, Ed Henry, Bret Baier and Bill Kristol. Washington Post columnist George Will, a former Bradley Prize winner, was the evening’s emcee.

Ailes said that he intended to donate his prize money to a charity for senior citizens (he didn’t name the charity) and that he would match the money with his own contribution.

He also didn’t address a possibly awkward bit of business: Is it appropriate for a man running a news organization that promotes itself as “fair and balanced” to accept a large check from a partisan organization?

Paul Farhi is The Washington Post's media reporter.
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Ron Charles | June 13, 2013