Roger Ailes, the deposed chief of Fox News, has meaningful credentials when it comes to image-making and PR. Before revolutionizing cable news, he advised various Republican candidates, including Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Rudy Giuliani. Over his 20-year run at Fox News, he oversaw one of the most effective, cutthroat public-relations shops in the private sector. He’s the author (with Jon Kraushar) of the 1989 book “You Are the Message.”
Now it appears he has lost all his sophistication in this critical area.
A stunning story in the Daily Beast by Lloyd Grove spools through a number of attacks by lawyers for Ailes against Gabriel Sherman, the New York magazine reporter who has blown the former network chief’s sexual harassment scandal wide open. Though the story began with the July 6 sexual harassment suit filed by former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson against Ailes, Sherman has interviewed other women who profess similar experiences, painting Ailes as a creep who used his influence to seek sexual favors. “Gabe Sherman is a virus, and is too small to exist on his own, and has obviously attached himself to the Ailes family to try to suck the life out of them,” Marc Mukasey, a white-collar defense attorney at the New York firm Greenberg Traurig, told Grove. “Roger is fine and doing well, and is not going to allow a virus like that to poison the atmosphere.”
Susan Estrich, a lawyer representing Ailes, emailed Grove this remark: “Gabe Sherman has made clear that nothing will stand in the way of his vendetta against Roger Ailes, and he will use any woman he can find—no matter how clearly and deeply troubled she is—to try to concoct allegations against Mr. Ailes.” And this remark: “But Gabe is running out of women he can use and abuse. Ultimately, it will be clear that the real enemy of women is Gabe Sherman.”
Why this sudden burst of attack lines? Well, it’s because Sherman has yet another big story about Ailes’s treatment of women in the pipeline, as Grove reports. Ailes’s lawyers apparently wanted the public to know about that piece and to warm up their browsers to read all the details. “Roger will live to fight another day, and Gabe Sherman will be a mediocre journalist for the rest of his life,” Mukasey told Grove. Why would a big-shot New York lawyer take valuable time to blast a middling journalist?
Mukasey is the son of former U.S. attorney general Michael Mukasey and met Ailes in 1989, when the Republican adviser was assisting Giuliani in his unsuccessful mayoral race with David Dinkins. The attacks against Sherman are part of Mukasey’s work for Ailes “as a personal friend and counselor to the family,” he told Grove.
Believe it or not, there’s something honorable in what Mukasey and Estrich are doing: They’re putting their names to their words.
Years ago, as Sherman was preparing his biography of Ailes — “The Loudest Voice in the Room” — some shadowy and unnamed individuals slimed him online. One bio, for example, contained these comments on his work and character:
“…people have had experiences with Sherman where he has unethically misled them about the purpose for which he is interviewing them.”
“In person, Sherman is pure con artist. His schmoozing is fakery designed to disarm.”
“I always notice his eyes are watery during his segments [on MSNBC]. His eyes tend to dart. He interrupts the host. As someone very familiar with news producing, these are all signs of someone who doesn’t know his/her subject and is BSing and afraid to be found out.”
More: An anonymous Fox News source told an anonymous Breitbart reporter that “Gabe Sherman is Jayson Blair on steroids.” And Sherman even alleged having received a death threat at one point, as noted by Grove. Sherman recently reported that some of these attacks emanated from a so-called “Black Room” at Fox News that carried out various opposition research and targeting campaigns. “In 2012, while I was researching a biography of Ailes, Fox operatives set up webpages to attack my reputation, and Fox funds paid for Google search ads against my name that linked to the sites,” noted Sherman in a recent story. And CNN’s Brian Stelter recently revealed that Ailes had compiled a 400-page opposition briefing book on Sherman.
Much as Ailes’s legal helpers try to slam Sherman, the summer’s trail of links tells a powerful counter-tale. Sherman broke the big stories surrounding the sexual harassment crisis, including how Megyn Kelly told investigators from the law firm Paul, Weiss of her own harassment story at Fox News; how Ailes had allegedly harassed a number of other female colleagues, including a two-decade-long torment of a former Fox News booker; not to mention other stories related to the scandal. None of it has been effectively challenged.
Mukasey told Grove that “nobody reads New York magazine.” That, of course, is not true, especially after all this fabulous promotion. In a phone chat with the Erik Wemple Blog, Sherman declined to rebut Mukasey’s claim that he is a “virus” and a “mediocre” journalist.