How Fox News Chief Roger Ailes Tried To Win Republicans The White House
Around 5 p.m. on Election Day 2012, Fox News chief Roger Ailes realized that Mitt Romney would not make it to the White House. “Thank you, Chris Christie,” Ailes groused.
Ailes was frustrated that the New Jersey governor appeared alongside President Barack Obama days earlier to survey the damage of Hurricane Sandy. When Ailes was told polling data suggested the incident hadn’t hurt the Republican Party’s chances, he responded: “Well, hugging the guy couldn’t help people feel good about Romney, either.”
This wasn’t how the race was supposed to end. During an afternoon meeting before the 2010 midterm elections, Ailes told executives he wanted “to elect the next president.”
Fox News already ruled the ratings and boasts annual earnings of around $1 billion. Most network chiefs would be ecstatic. But Ailes isn’t like most –- or really, any -– other top cable news executives. A visionary in the world of political messaging on television, Ailes had advised three past Republican presidents on how to use the medium to their advantage. And now he planned to use his talents for the party once more.
With the exception of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Ailes had privately knocked the 2008 Republican field as the “seven dwarves” and wasn’t impressed with the crop of 2012 contenders. He unsuccessfully tried twice to convince Christie to run in 2012 and sent an emissary to Afghanistan with hopes that Gen. David Petraeus would enter the race.
During a meeting at Fox, Ailes told candidate Jon Huntsman, who had a solid conservative record as Utah governor, he was “not of our orthodoxy” because of his views on climate change. He grew frustrated with Fox News contributor Sarah Palin, who ended up sitting out the 2012 race, and had misgivings about the party’s eventual nominee, Mitt Romney. Ailes once privately told a Fox host that Romney is “like Chinese food — 20 minutes after you eat it, you can’t remember what you had.”
How Ailes tried to get a Republican president elected in 2012 is revealed in The Loudest Voice In The Room, author Gabriel Sherman’s sweeping biography of the television luminary, from his humble Warren, Ohio, roots to becoming the “most powerful opposition figure in the country.” The book will be on sale Tuesday.
Sherman recalls Ailes’ early days as a young hot-shot producer on the “Mike Douglas Show” and his entrance into politics in 1968 as a media adviser to then-presidential candidate Richard Nixon, who had faltered eight years earlier in the first televised president debate against the telegenic John F. Kennedy. Sherman exhaustively covers Ailes’ career, from an upstate New York newspaper war to building the lucrative cable network where his TV instincts, ability to frame political narratives and conservative worldview all coalesced: Fox News.