In 2009, Jacob Weisberg argued “The Australian-British-continental model of politicized media that Murdoch has applied at Fox is un-American.” This makes him a natural choice for The New York Times in picking a reviewer for Gabriel Sherman’s new anti-Roger Ailes biography “Loudest Voice in the Room.”
In Weisberg’s opinion, instead of helping the GOP defeat Obama, “Ailes effectively sabotaged them by giving unlimited airtime to fringe figures like Rick Santorum, Sarah Palin and Herman Cain during primary season. Having weathered this freak show through the primaries, Mitt Romney couldn’t shake the Fox News taint.” Times media columnist David Carr wrote almost exactly the same thing about the “fringy” conservatives:
Fox News doesn’t need a working majority, it does not have to govern or compromise, it does not need to do anything other than win enough ratings to stay on top.
But in the last election, Mr. Ailes conflated his two passions to damaging effect. He gave jobs to many Republican candidates, offered oodles of advice to them, and provided hundreds of hours of airtime for the cooking and serving of conservative red meat.
With an economy in shambles and a foreign policy that was all over the road, the incumbent seemed vulnerable. But that was before the conservative fringe, with a big assist from Fox News, all but kidnapped the Republican side of the argument.
Carr also claimed:
Mr. Ailes has run Fox News as a political operation from the start, enthusiastically serving as a kingmaker in Republican politics. After all, the man in charge of the Fox News decision desk for the highly contested 2000 presidential race between George W. Bush and Al Gore was John Ellis, a cousin of Mr. Bush’s. According to Mr. Sherman’s book, as vote totals in Florida crept in on that fateful night, Mr. Ellis got off the phone at 2 a.m. and exclaimed, “Jebbie says we got it!” The walls between the respective estates have never been thinner than that.
Liberals like Carr can never acknowledge the obvious: large sections of the liberal media enthusiastically served like kingmakers for Bill Clinton and for Barack Obama, and there are many examples of liberal Democrats and network brass and anchors displaying extremely thin walls.
Let’s try February 10, 1992, when ABC’s Mark Halperin helpfully handed Clinton staffer George Stephanopoulos an old letter where Bill Clinton wrote an ROTC commander “Thank you...for saving me from the draft.” ABC News then stayed quiet until the Democrats could prepare a defense against a potentially very damaging story. Jim Wooten interviewed Clinton on the 10th, and then ABC sat on it until Clinton “released” the letter to all media in a February 12 press conference.
In his book “Strange Bedfellows,” Tom Rosenstiel wrote, “By their clumsiness, ABC allowed Clinton to steal their scoop and obscure the meaning of the story.” Or, in a more cynical reading, ABC allowed Clinton to write his own story on his schedule with his spin on it.
In his book review, Weisberg uses an anonymously sourced report that Ailes backed up one of Glenn Beck's wackier statements (that Obama hates white people), and then somehow contends calling Obama a "socialist" is just as wacky, despite the Obama administration taking over several automobile companies and seeking to socialize the health care system:
He stood by Glenn Beck’s assertion that President Obama harbors a “deep-seated hatred for white people.” But Ailes’s own preferred style of smear is a shade more oblique: not a direct accusation, but a screen graphic posing the question “Is Obama a socialist?”
The respective weight of Fox’s ideological and commercial motives remains a topic for debate. Manufactured indignation (the “War on Christmas,” “Obama’s Czars,” “the Ground Zero Mosque”) drives viewership, especially when performed for a mostly male audience by leggy blond anchors. At one level, Fox’s victimhood pose is obviously disingenuous; Murdoch has always played the outrage game to drive circulation and ratings. His most valuable player, on the other hand, seems to be genuinely seething with resentment, often at his friends as much as his enemies. Another pattern of his is to build up Frankenstein monsters, like Beck, Hannity and Bill O’Reilly, and then decry their ingratitude. Fox’s populism is so clearly an expression of his authentic feelings that it’s hard to see it as purely cynical.
This is life inside the bubble of The New York Times. It's considered bad form to call Obama a "socialist," but it's not bad form to describe Fox News hosts as "Frankenstein monsters."