erik lundegaard

Thursday February 27, 2014

Gabriel Sherman: 'Paranoia is Essential to Understanding Roger Ailes'

This afternoon, Gabriel Sherman, author of “The Loudest Voice in the Room: How the Bombastic, Brilliant Roger Ailes Built Fox News—and Divided a Country,” which is much recommended, held an online chat on Reddit, and I arrived in time to ask him two questions.

The first—based upon this post—was kind of lame, since it asked what couldn't really be answered. Still, I was curious if it brought up anything interesting from Sherman. I've done enough Q&As to realize that the best questions can get you nothing while the worst can open up a goldmine. Not really a rationale for asking bad questions, but ... You ask what interests you.

Q: Do you feel Roger Ailes' paranoia, chronicled in the last part of the book, is a consequence of how he lived his life? I.e., he expects his enemies to be as ruthless with him as he's always been with them?

Sherman: Paranoia is essential to understanding Roger Ailes. I'm a reporter, not a novelist, so I can't be in his head. But following the adage that “action reveals character,” I think your question gets at something. Ailes has certainly justified his behavior in the past by projecting the worst motives onto his enemies. One instance: at NBC, at the apex of the anti-Semitism investigation, Ailes claimed his opponents were “un-American” because they were challenging his abusive management style. Ailes also talks of people being “spies,” which is revealing, since he's a man who has had private investigators follow people and spy on them.

If you've read the book, the second question is inevitable. McGinniss and Ailes were friends in the late 1960s, so ...

Q: Did Ailes ever mention anything about Joe McGinniss moving next door to Sarah Palin? He was once friends with the former, and never with the latter, despite the former being a conservative bete noire and the latter being a conservative icon. So I'm curious if he ever went on the record on the subject.

Sherman: That did not come up in my reporting. The dynamics of that triangle are interesting though. Ailes is close with McGinniss and is not close with Palin. Despite the political differences, Ailes has been loyal to McGinniss since McGinniss made Ailes into a star in his landmark 1969 book “The Selling of the President.” Ailes once gave McGinniss private media coaching in the early 1990s so McGinniss could fire back at the press when he was getting grilled over his Ted Kennedy biography.

Although Ailes was captivated by Palin in 2008 and said he hired her because she was “hot,” he quickly doubted her political instincts. One person I interviewed said Ailes thought she was “an idiot.” So, based on these factors, my instinct tells me that Ailes would side with McGinniss.

The full Reddit conversation here.

Posted at 03:46 PM on Thursday February 27, 2014 in category Books  
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