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Opinion What’s up with Roger Ailes and the supply closet?

Easily the most entertaining bit of media news this week is the allegation that Fox News chief Roger Ailes one day worked from a supply closet in his office building. His alleged motive for the strange work environment? Paranoia — Ailes apparently believed that the Fox News offices were bugged top to bottom, and said  the supply closet was the only safe place in the building.

The juiciness comes from Jonathan Alter’s new book, “The Center Holds: Obama and his Enemies.” Here is the full context of the allegation:

[O]ne Monday, [Rupert] Murdoch snickered to senior staff that Ailes was convinced that the whole News Corp. building was bugged: “Roger came in over the weekend to work in the only room that he thought was secure — a supply closet.”

Politico’s Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen, “one of Washington’s top journalists,” carry this denial from Ailes:

“He claims I once worked out of a supply closet because I was convinced the building was bugged. It’s completely false and silly. In fact, I had no idea we have a supply closet.”

Ailes raises a point worth considering. Though we can’t probe his head to figure out what he knew about the building’s supply closets, we can determine whether there was a supply closet available to him. And who better to consult on that front than Fox Mole Joe Muto? Via postings on Gawker, Muto last year made a name for himself discussing the infrastructure of the Fox News office space, among the disclosures that led to his departure. He recently published a book — “An Atheist in the Foxhole” — recounting his eight years in the building with Ailes & Co. Significant passages describe the layout and contours of the Fox workspace. In other words, Muto is the perfect guy to fact-check supply-closet availability.

“Absolutely,” says Muto, when asked if there were supply closets that could double as workspaces. “The center core of building is elevator banks and supply closets. … There’s one directly behind the O’Reilly staff pod. There are absolutely supply closets that have been turned into makeshift offices.”

When pressed on his supply-closet stuff, Alter responds that his sources “did not witness it — they did not open the door of the supply closet and see Roger sitting in there. What I say is that they heard Rupert Murdoch describe Roger Ailes this way and say that they found it amusing.”

To Ailes’s suggestion that he undergo rage counseling, Alter says, that comment “might go into the Guinness Book of World Records for psychological projection. All that I want people to understand is that they haven’t laid a glove on anything I wrote,” he says, referring to Fox News backlash.

In preparing to publish his book, Alter requested an interview with Ailes. He didn’t get it. Nor did he present his findings to Ailes prior to publication. “In the case of Ailes, I was more certain that he would do what he’s done now, which is deny everything.”