Fox News Channel is getting heat from viewers for hiring controversial newsman Geraldo Rivera as a new “war correspondent” to cover developments in Afghanistan.

Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes made the announcement Thursday that Rivera would leave his perch at CNBC Nov. 16 and immediately be dispatched to the front lines for the “fair and balanced network.”

In response to viewer complaints about the move, Ailes crafted a form letter explaining that Rivera “has had a long and controversial career, and I disagree with many of the things he has said in his life.”

“However, I don’t hire only people who agree with me,” continued Ailes. “Geraldo is being hired as a war correspondent. He has been in action in Bosnia and covered the drug wars in South America. He is fearless and has a record of doing exemplary work on issues such as mental health, drugs and war, just to name a few.”

Ailes added: “Geraldo, by his own admission, has made mistakes in his career. But at his core, he is a solid journalist. Frankly, he could have made millions of dollars more by staying in his safe NBC contract, but he elected to go in harm’s way to cover the biggest story of our time. He, like many of us, has been changed by the events of Sept. 11. That doesn’t mean we will agree on every issue, but it does mean that Fox News Channel is truly committed to fair and balanced news. I have great confidence in the American people to make up their own minds if they hear all the facts.”

Matt Drudge broke the news of the hiring Thursday.

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