In an extensive interview that aired yesterday on CNN’s “Reliable Sources,” journalist Gabriel Sherman, author of the soon-to-be-released biography “The Loudest Voice in the Room: How the Brilliant, Bombastic Roger Ailes Built Fox News–and Divided a Country” discussed several fascinating dimensions of his subject, Fox News chief Roger Ailes. For instance:
*Ailes’s use of a “secret e-mail address that he e-mails FOX talent and producers when he wants to push his right-wing messages.”
*The brilliant scheme that Ailes deploys to keep a lid on leaks from his top lieutenants: Whenever Ailes says something “explosive” at a meeting, his executive assistant writes it down and records the names of all those who heard it.
*Ailes’s prediction decades ago that television would “surpass” political parties when it comes to organizing political activity.
“Reliable Sources” host Brian Stelter pushed Sherman on whether his own politics may have steered his reporting and whether there was any merit to Fox News’s charges that Sherman had failed to fact-check the book with the company (no, there is none). All good stuff.
One omission, however: In a Friday interview on “CBS This Morning,” Norah O’Donnell and Charlie Rose pressed Sherman on a critical contention from the very title of the book. Here’s how that discussion went down:
O’Donnell: You say he’s divided a country.
Sherman: Yes, he has.
Sherman: Because his ability to drive a message: He has an unrivaled ability to know what resonates with a certain audience. You know, he comes from a blue-collar factory town in Ohio, he speaks to…
Rose: So what’s the message that divides the country?
Sherman: He speaks to that part of America that feels left behind by the culture. You know, it’s the old Nixon silent majority, which is what was his formative experience.
After three years of reporting and more than 600 interviews, Sherman should come equipped to his media interviews with better answers. What’s divisive, after all, about understanding what “resonates with a certain audience”? What’s the problem with speaking to Americans who feel “left behind by the culture”? Wouldn’t that be a public service? Indeed, everything that Sherman cited to the CBS people — including blue-collar origins — would appear to be assets for a guy like Ailes. Why haven’t Fox News allies seized upon these remarks as evidence of Sherman’s disdain for conservative America? (Stelter tells the Erik Wemple Blog that he planned a follow-up to that portion of Sherman’s “CBS This Morning” interview but ran out of time).
Next time, perhaps the author should mention something about how the tendentious distortions on Fox News have chipped away at a commonly accepted set of facts on which Americans can have political discussions. Or something like that.
Let’s hope the book makes a more compelling case than Sherman makes on morning tube.