Last year, Fox News and its boss, Roger Ailes, engaged in a vigorous counterattack against journalist Jonathan Alter, whose book, “The Center Holds: Obama and His Enemies,” smacked the news boss for being paranoid. Among Alter’s allegations were that Ailes had tried to bombproof his office, had a terrorist monitor on his desk, and pushed for the removal of a ‘Muslim-looking’ janitor from his office building. Rolling Stone reporter Tim Dickinson had previously documented a great deal of Ailes paranoia. Ailes & Co. shouted down Alter’s reporting.
Now there’s more. In a New York Magazine excerpt from the Ailes biography by Gabriel Sherman, titled “The Loudest Voice in the Room,” Ailes and his wife, Beth, come off as security-obsessed control freaks. The except focuses on the Ailes’ significant maneuvers in the hamlet of Garrison, N.Y., where they own a hilltop mansion. Here’s Sherman:
Roger and Beth also bought up as many surrounding houses as they could. Security cameras were installed throughout the property. “A team of landscapers was, in the absence of the Ailes family, working on the grounds of the compound,” Burton later recounted. “They were planting a tree when the boss’s cell phone rang. It was the absent Beth. ‘No, no,’ she said. ‘That’s not where I want the tree. I insist that you move it.’ She directed them to the correct site. The landscapers were puzzled until they realized that the many security cameras on the grounds had captured them at work. Beth had been watching them from wherever she was and called to correct the tree planting.” Other local contractors helped install a bunker that could weather a terrorist attack underneath their mansion. “He can live in there for more than six months,” a friend who has visited it said. “There are bedrooms, a couple of TVs, water, and freeze-dried food.” “I’m not allowed to talk about it,” Ailes’s older brother Robert said. “I think the proper term is a ‘panic room.’ ”
Another telltale moment comes when Sherman discusses how Ailes manages the staff of the newspaper that he bought in his town. Sherman again:
One morning in July 2008, Brian O’Donnell called the employees of the [Putnam County News & Recorder] to the newsroom to meet Roger Ailes and his wife. The staff was on edge. Although Beth was taking the title of publisher, Roger did most of the talking that day. They could keep their jobs, he said, but there would be “new” rules. “The first one was, ‘Don’t bad-mouth your employer,’ ” reporter Michael Turton, an affable Canadian, recalled. “Roger’s second proviso was to ‘get both sides of the story.’ ”
That bit about not bad-mouthing your employer also famously applies to staff at Fox News, whose folks are held to an airtight directive to send all media requests to Fox News’s legendary PR shop. As Sherman’s excerpt on Ailes’s work in Putnam County makes clear, however, it’s perhaps a bit easier to enforce that rule among employees with TV salaries than with employees with community newspaper salaries.