Fox News dumped Matt Drudge yesterday after extracting a statement of regret from the cyber-gossip for having riddled the network with rhetorical fire.
Fox had threatened Drudge with a breach-of-contract lawsuit after he refused to tape his program last Saturday in a dispute over a picture of a fetus. Drudge and Fox News President Roger Ailes had a tense conversation to hammer out the language of their divorce.
"In the heat of the moment, in pursuit of a story, I made comments I regret about the innovative Fox News Channel and its executives," Drudge said in the agreed-upon press release. "I look forward to a continuing relationship with the Fox News Channel for years to come and may even make guest appearances on its programming from time to time."
Ailes, who was livid over Drudge's conduct, said in the statement that his former employee "is an original and did some very good television for us." Ailes also said he would "continue to read the Drudge Report." Drudge played it cute yesterday, saying from Los Angeles that "I'm thrilled I'm going to be able to kiss Fox goodbye--on good terms."
The Internet columnist abandoned his two-year-old show after Fox executives refused to allow him to brandish a National Enquirer photo of surgery being performed on a 21-week-old fetus with spina bifida. They argued that he would be misrepresenting the picture by using it to talk about abortion. Drudge denounced the network for censoring him, then returned fire on his Web site after Fox criticized him.
Fox owner Rupert Murdoch expressed concern about the flap--the network even included questions about the Drudge match in a political poll--and Ailes pushed hard for an apology. Drudge acknowledged in yesterday's statement that under his contract, Fox "has complete editorial control over all of its programming, including 'Drudge.' " Still, it took a flurry of calls to negotiate the parting words.
Fox executives were quick to note that one of their correspondents showed the fetus photo Wednesday in a report on spina bifida.