A new book by journalist Jonathan Alter contains some interesting contentions vis-a-vis the alleged paranoia of Fox News chief Roger Ailes. Titled “The Center Holds: Obama and his Enemies,” the book, as excerpted here, contends that Ailes, among other things:
• Attempted to bombproof his office;
• Had a “terrorist monitor” on his desk;
• Demanded the ejection of a ‘Muslim-Looking’ janitor from his office building;
• Lives in a security bubble.
An anonymous Fox Newser has done a great deal to promote these notions. In a Mediaite post from yesterday, said anonymous Fox Newser blasted the Alter stuff as “lies and utter drivel.” The three-paragraph statement did two things:
1) Showed that Alter had gotten under the skin of Fox News; and
2) Lent the book precious promotional oxygen.
As Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan has pointed out, these revelations about Ailes are revelations to the extent that you might have missed the extensive 2011 piece by Tim Dickinson in Rolling Stone magazine, which provided detail on Ailes’s sense of personal (in)security. (Alter’s book, though, does appear to have some new stuff on this front, like the allegation that Ailes worked one weekend out of a supply closet because he thought it was one spot that wasn’t bugged). Here’s a paragraph from the Rolling Stone story:
Ailes begins each workday buffered by the elaborate private security detail that News Corp. pays to usher him from his $1.6 million home in New Jersey to his office in Manhattan. (His country home – in the aptly named village of Garrison – is phalanxed by empty homes that Ailes bought up to create a wider security perimeter.) Traveling with the Chairman is like a scene straight out of 24. A friend recalls hitching a ride with Ailes after a power lunch: “We come out of the building and there’s an SUV filled with big guys, who jump out of the car when they see him. A cordon is formed around us. We’re ushered into the SUV, and we drive the few blocks to Fox’s offices, where another set of guys come out of the building to receive ‘the package.’ The package is taken in, and I’m taken on to my destination.” Ailes is certain that he’s a top target of Al Qaeda terrorists. “You know, they’re coming to get me,” he tells friends. “I’m fully prepared. I’ve taken care of it.” (Ailes, who was once arrested for carrying an illegal handgun in Central Park, now carries a licensed weapon.) Inside his blast-resistant office at Fox News headquarters, Ailes keeps a monitor on his desk that allows him to view any activity outside his closed door. Once, after observing a dark-skinned man in what Ailes perceived to be Muslim garb, he put Fox News on lockdown. “What the hell!” Ailes shouted. “This guy could be bombing me!” The suspected terrorist turned out to be a janitor. “Roger tore up the whole floor,” recalls a source close to Ailes. “He has a personal paranoia about people who are Muslim – which is consistent with the ideology of his network.”
Dickinson, in an interview with the Erik Wemple Blog, suggests that Fox News didn’t do the favors for his Rolling Stone piece that it did for Alter’s book. By his recollection, Fox News didn’t release a grand, anonymous statement bashing his work. Rush Limbaugh, however, trashed the piece, which Dickinson saw as a “surrogate effort,” citing the long relationship between Limbaugh and Ailes. “I can’t document that that was pushed out by [Fox News],” says Dickinson, a contributing editor at Rolling Stone.
What Dickinson did get from the redoubtable Fox News PR department was pre-publication attitude. A blog post on a now-defunct site, says Dickinson, reported that his Rolling Stone piece was in the works, and when Dickinson approached Fox News for access to Ailes, that post came up. Here’s the text of an e-mail from Fox News spokesman Brian Lewis:
Sorry for the delay in getting back to you…have been traveling.
Yes, we are aware of your story. I believe internet reports have quoted people at your own publication calling it a “hit piece” on Roger. Additionally, the consensus among the people who have already been interviewed confirmed that you are writing a “distorted,” “negative” article.
At this time, I see no reason to participate as it appears the article has been written and you just need to plug in Roger’s quotes in order to turn around the story for publication in the coming weeks.
Good luck with your piece.
Bolded text added to highlight utter sincerity. As for the “plug-in” charge leveled by Lewis, Dickinson bristles: “I reached out to Fox News for an Ailes interview in the early stages of my reporting, long before I sat down to write any draft of the piece. Lewis’ characterizations of my reporting aims and methods are false.”
All the talk about glass and paranoia appears to frustrate Dickinson just a touch. After all, his piece went after Ailes for running the “most profitable propaganda machine in history. “I suppose that the paranoia stuff is very colorful but it’s the least of what’s actually important when it comes to Ailes,” he says.