Why Roger is right

By Ellen Ratner

First, I want to get a couple things straight. I’m a commentator for Fox News and an admirer of its chairman, Roger Ailes. I’ve known the man for years. Which is why, when this former Republican strategist asked me, a screaming liberal, to join his network, I jumped at the chance. The reason is simple – politically speaking, Roger and I may not agree on what day of the week it is, but as a man of integrity capable of living up to Fox Network’s motto of “Fair and Balanced,” Ailes has few peers.

But if you’ve been reading the New York Times lately (and according to published reports, there are fewer of you doing that these days) or watching CNN (similarly, there seems to be fewer of you doing that, as well), you’d think that Roger Ailes was one of the legion of newspaper reporters, TV journalists or columnists fired in recent years for fabricating stories, reporting on events that never took place or otherwise trying to burnish their phony credentials for a Pulitzer.

But continue, gentle reader, and if you like hot, juicy scandal, I will guarantee you a major letdown.

In a spate of recent articles and broadcasts, Roger Ailes is being savaged because he:

  • Spiked a legitimate news story about a race riot in the city? No!
  • Wrote a front page editorial disguised as a news article? No!
  • Hired a former Clinton pol as news director? No!
  • Faked a story about the use of nerve gas in Vietnam? No!

The Times and CNN are savaging Ailes because he, because he, well, because he, horrors of horrors, wrote a letter to President Bush offering some unsolicited advice in the aftermath of 9-11! This is CNN and the Times’ version of tabloid journalism, the political equivalent of learning how much weight Oprah Winfrey has gained or the divorce de jour among the soap stars.

Yes, perhaps Roger did offer the president advice – together with 280 million other Americans, billions of people throughout the world, virtually every foreign leader, hordes of news commentators, editorial pages, websites, street corner evangelists, kings and queens of the office water cooler and your Uncle Max and Aunt Sophie. In fact, the New York Times dispenses advice to the President – and anyone else who’ll pop a buck to buy the sheet – every day in its editorials. And I’m willing to bet that if the Times’ Howell Raines or its chairman Arthur “Punch” Sulzberger ever opened their outbox files, you’d find them stuffed with correspondence to (and too many from) every Democratic politician who ever lived.

By ganging up on Fox News, CNN and the Times are one with the recent ill-tempered remarks of Tom Daschle who, in a specially devastating “senior moment” blamed talk radio and Rush Limbaugh for the Democrats’ recent loss! What is going on here?

Here’s Ellen’s best guess: What do the New York Times (another confession: Personally speaking, the Times is my favorite newspaper because of its otherwise outstanding journalism), CNN and the Democratic Party all have in common? Let’s see … one has declining readership, the other has declining viewership and one has declining voter-ship. I guess that makes them, well losers, in the game of building audience and selling advertising. Is it possible that these attacks are motivated by that well-known psychiatric dysfunction never described by Sigmund Freud called “ratings envy”?

My fellow Democrats and the liberal editorialists who backed them took a major hit in November, basically losing the government. In the aftermath, everybody expected some degree of brainless finger pointing – it happened to Republicans when Jim Jeffords switched and happened back in ’92 when George I lost the White House to Bill Clinton. A certain amount of this happens to every political party in exile.

But as an old political saying in Washington runs, “Don’t blame you and don’t blame me. Blame that fella’ behind the tree.” I guess for some media outlets and politicians, Roger Ailes is the fella’ behind the tree.

That may be, but this is one liberal who believes that whatever Roger Ailes is up to, I can guarantee you that it’s fair and balanced.