Vice President Joe Biden is as “dumb as an ashtray,” President Obama is “lazy” and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is a “prick,” according to Fox News chief Roger Ailes.
The magazine’s online article describes Ailes as “one of the most powerful – and controversial – characters in television media, pilloried by critics and many in the mainstream media and lionized by conservative viewers who can’t get enough of his posse of charismatic hosts.”
Another upcoming biography on Ailes, this one unauthorized and penned by magazine media reporter Gabriel Sherman, will be released this year. Vanity Fair notes that while Sherman has for years covered the media, Chafets enjoyed unprecedented access to Ailes.
On the issue of the nation’s second-in-command, Chafets quoted Ailes: “I like Marco Rubio. But I don’t know about as a vice-presidential candidate. He’s a nice guy, and that role requires kicking the crap out of your opponents.”
Then Ailes said: “I have a soft spot for Joe Biden. I like him. But he’s dumb as an ashtray.”
On Obama, Ailes reacted to Democratic operative Hilary Rosen’s comment during the last election campaign that Ann Romney, mother of five, never had worked a day in her life.
Want to know what Roger Ailes REALLY thinks? See the full story about the man liberals charge with breaking the establishment media’s long monopoly on what constitutes news, in “Roger Ailes: Off Camera.”
“Obama’s the one who never worked a day in his life,” Ailes said. “He never earned a penny that wasn’t public money. How many fund-raisers does he attend every week? How often does he play basketball and golf? I wish I had that kind of time. He’s lazy, but the media won’t report that.”
Author Chafets said Ailes noticed his arched eyebrows in response to the criticism of Obama.
“I didn’t come up with that,” Ailes explained. “Obama said that, to Barbara Walters.”
Also during the 2012 election season, Fox News was criticized by Gingrich for supporting Mitt Romney. Gingrich had been a commentator for Fox before joining the presidential race.
Reported Chafets: “Brian Lewis, his spokesman, asked Ailes for guidance on how to respond to Newt. ‘Brush him back,’ Ailes said. ‘He’s a sore loser and if he had won he would have been a sore winner.’ Lewis nodded. Ailes was silent for a moment and then added, ‘Newt’s a prick.'”
The magazine noted that Fox News has been accused by White House officials of being the “communications arm of the Republican Party.”
Ailes, chairman and chief executive officer of the Fox News Channel of Fox Entertainment Group since 1996, also has worked in various other positions with Fox and with CNBC. Born in Warren, Ohio, he graduated from Ohio University in 1962 and began his television career on “The Mike Douglas Show.”
He became a producer and executive producer and later was a media adviser to Richard Nixon’s campaign. He followed up by founding Ailes Communication in New York before he hit the campaign trail again, this time with Ronald Reagan.
His tenure at CNBC was followed by his recruitment by Rupert Murdoch to create the Fox News Channel.
The book’s excerpts include personal insights, such as Ailes’ desire to spend time with his son, Zac, and his recognition that because of his age, he likely won’t know Zac for an extended time as an adult.
Ailes is 72; Zac about 13.
Said Chafets of his extended time with Ailes: “He is plainspoken, wryly profane, caustic, and above all competitive, whether he is relating how he told NBC not to name its cable channel MSNBC … or, in an appearance before a student audience, trying to recall the name of a CNN anchor ‘named after a prison.’ (Soledad O’Brien.) Ailes, in his years as a political consultant, created images for a living, and his own narrative is constructed from the sturdy materials of American mythology.”
Chafets added: “After I had known him for a while I asked what he would do if he were president of the United States. He said that he would sign no legislation, create no new regulations, and allow the country to return to its natural, best self, which he locates, with modest social amendments, somewhere in Midwestern America circa 1955.”
The article also reports how Ailes handled Obama:
During the presidential campaign of 2008, candidate Barack Obama was upset by Fox News, which by then was in its sixth year of cable dominance. A sit-down was arranged with Murdoch and Ailes, who recalls that the meeting took place in a private room at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in Manhattan. (White House spokesman Jay Carney declined to relate the president’s version.) Obama arrived with his aide Robert Gibbs, who seated Ailes directly across from Obama, close enough for Ailes to feel the intention was to intimidate him. He didn’t mind; in fact, he rather appreciated the stagecraft, one political professional to another.
After some pleasantries, Obama got to the point. He was concerned about the way he was being portrayed on Fox, and his real issue wasn’t the news; it was Sean Hannity, who had been battering him every night at nine (and on his radio show, which Fox doesn’t own or control). Ailes didn’t deny that Hannity was anti-Obama. He simply told the candidate not to worry about it. “Nobody who watches Sean’s going to vote for you anyway,” he said.
Obama then asked Ailes what his personal concerns might be. It is a politician’s question that means: What can I do for you?
Ailes said he was mainly concerned about Obama’s strength on national-security issues. The candidate assured Ailes that he had nothing to worry about.
“Well, why are you going around talking about making cuts in weapons systems?” asked Ailes. “If you’re going to cut, why not at least negotiate them and get something in return?”
Obama said that Ailes had been misinformed; he was not advocating unilateral cuts.
“He said this looking me right in the eyes,” says Ailes. “He never dropped his gaze, which is the usual tell. It was as good a lie as anyone ever told me. I said, ‘Senator, I just watched someone say exactly that on my computer screen before coming over here. Maybe it wasn’t you, but it sure looked like you and sounded like you. I think it was you.'”
At that point, Gibbs stood and announced that the session was over. “I don’t think he liked the meeting very much,” says Ailes.
Chafets also chronicles asking Ailes about heaven.
Ailes responded, “I’m pretty sure that God’s got a sense of humor. I think he gets a laugh out of me from time to time, so I suppose things will be all right.”
Chafets asked, “What if you get there and it turns out that God is a liberal?”
Ailes: “Well, hell, if God’s a liberal, that’s his business. … But I doubt very much that he is. He’s got a good heart.”