NewsBusters Interview: Zev Chafets on Fox News Founder Roger Ailes

While most people have never heard of Roger Ailes, they have heard of his famous creation, the Fox News Channel. As basically the sole national mainstream news entity which is not operated on a left-of-center paradigm, Fox News has become almost public enemy number-one to the far left. For many of today’s illiberal liberals, the mere existence of Fox News is enough to induce spittle-flecked rants calling for its forceful closure by the government.

The sheer hatred leveled against Ailes and Fox News was why I was very interested to interview Zev Chafets, about his new biography, Roger Ailes Off Camera.

roger-ailes-off-camera.jpgThe book itself is rather short but it is packed with anecdotes about Ailes’s life, how he sees the world, his vision of the news, and how things are behind the scenes at FNC. Predictably, it has been assailed by critics who have attacked Chafets for not devoting scores of pages talking about how Fox News has somehow destroyed American democracy.

While Off Camera is far from a definitive work on the historic phenomenon of Fox News, it is nonetheless required reading for anyone looking to gain insight into the mind of the man who created the number-one cable news channel in Ameria.

Contrary to the rantings of his left-wing critics, Chafets’s book is full of statements which do not reflect well on the Fox News operation. In the book and in his interview with me, Chafets makes quite clear that he sees FNC as leaning rightward. He notes how the highest levels of power in the company are occupied by the religiously devout, the opposite of the other top news companies. Chafets even devotes an entire chapter to chronicling an alleged pro-Republican sentiment in the room at an Election Night 2012 party hosted by Ailes for Fox News executives and others affiliated with FNC’s parent company News Corporation. And of course there is the now-much-discussed Ailes insult that President Barack Obama is “lazy,” a statement that sent lefty reporters into a frenzy about how Ailes was somehow a racist for reusing Obama’s own characterization of himself (naturally, they left that last part out).

What likely angers his antagonists is that while Chafets is not afraid to needle Fox for allegedly being too conservative, he is fair enough to point out that FNC employs far more liberal commentators than CNN and MSNBC combined have hired conservatives. He also reports at length how many lefties who actually know the man do not see Roger Ailes as some sort of Republican Rasputin.

Regardless of what one thinks of Ailes, he has clearly led an interesting life. He was instrumental in creating daytime television at the Mike Douglas Show in the 1960s, had a very successful career as a Republican political consultant, created the Rush Limbaugh television show, and then later created the Fox News Channel.

In our discussion about the book, Chafets revealed a fresh perspective on media. He is candid about the very obvious Democratic allegiances of the rest of the national media (he calls the belief that the elite media are centrist a “fairy tale”) but he does wonder if it really is a criticism to say that a particular outlet has an ideological approach rather than a mere statement of fact.

We also discuss some of the more interesting anecdotes Chafets reports in his book about Ailes, including the tension between the Obama White House and FNC as well as the tale of Ailes’s hometown community newspaper and how many local lefties cannot stand that he owns it.

An abridged transcript of our interview follows.

 

MATTHEW SHEFFIELD: So you previously wrote a book about Rush Limbaugh, is that what inspired you to do a book about Roger Ailes?

ZEV CHAFETS: Well, the Limbaugh book came out of an article I wrote about him for The New York Times Magazine. And after that came out I decided I wanted to write about him and Rush was not exactly enthusiastic about it but he decided to cooperate and An Army of One, is the book that came out of that process.

In the researching and the writing of An Army of One, I came across Roger Ailes, both as the former the guy that was Rush’s producer on TV and kind of a mentor to him and a pretty close friend and so I knew I was interested in Roger and I started looking into his background and so forth. And at a certain point I decided it would make a good companion book in a way to the Limbaugh book. And so I approached him, and after some hemming and hawing he decided to go ahead and do it.

SHEFFIELD: And then the whole reporting process and the writing process took about a year or so? Is that right?

CHAFETS: Yeah, something like that.

SHEFFIELD: Now one of the things that Limbaugh and Ailes both have in common is that they’re not very big fans of the news media and they very rarely let anyone get a peek behind the curtain. How were you able to convince him, Roger Ailes, to do that?

CHAFETS: Well, when I asked Roger Ailes if he’d be willing to let me, you know, to cooperate with me on this book, I wanted to talk to him and ultimately he agreed. And many months later when we were in the middle of the—an interview—I said to him you know, why did you decide to cooperate with me? And he said because you have a kind face. And of course I laughed out loud to that. And it was funny, he also said that he checked with Limbaugh and Limbaugh told him that I’d given him a fair shake and so, he just thought that was enough.

SHEFFIELD: Perhaps relevant to that point, your—both this Ailes book and the Limbaugh book have been criticized by, as by several different liberal reviewers saying that you did not include enough information in there to their satisfaction. What is your response to that?

CHAFETS: You know, well you know everyone’s entitled to their opinion and I just consider the source.


SHEFFIELD: Well and speaking of the source, a very persistent theme in your book and also in the life and the work of Roger Ailes is the whole concept of the liberal press and the establishment of Fox as an alternative or at least a place where conservatives are not ridiculed and at least have a place to be heard. And it seems to me that, that notion is very hard for many liberal critics to grasp, there is a very visceral hatred of Fox News. Why do you suppose that is?

CHAFETS: Well it’s easy to understand actually the—I don’t want to say the liberal media because that has connotations which are true enough but you know I don’t feel completely comfortable with—I would say that these days anyways, the partisan mainstream media. Which is almost entirely composed of people, let’s say, who vote for Democrats, if we just want to put it in sort of those terms.

Studies all show that 80 or 90 percent of the reporters in the mainstream national media are Democratic voters. And if you’re like me and have lived most of your life among the mainstream journalists, I was surprised by how low that number is. It’s probably closer to a hundred percent, at least in my experience. And there are journalists who say ‘well yes, I may be a Democratic voter but it doesn’t infringe on my coverage and so forth.’ But I think that’s ridiculous. You know it’s a fairy tale that people, that reporters tell the public and sometimes we tell each other that, but only children believe that.

So the media has been in modern times, as Av Westin who was a senior executive at both ABC and CBS told me, they batted from the left. Walter Cronkite was close to Bobby Kennedy, and actually an adviser to him informally. And there’s dozen of examples and it gets tedious to name examples, it’s completely clear, I don’t think it’s debatable.

I think three New York Times ombudsmen in a row identified the New York Times as a liberal publication and of course it’s a liberal publication. It hasn’t supported a Republican for president since 1956. And the New York Times is the paper of record for the rest of the national media. And when you have a nice monopoly like that, two things begin to happen. First you begin to imagine that your point of view is the only respectable point of view. In a way almost the only possible point of view. Which is why Walter Cronkite could say, “that’s how it is,” and think that he’s told the world, from the liberal perspective, that’s how it was.

And the other thing is if you have a monopoly and somebody impinges on it, a competitor enters the field, the people who lost their monopoly tend to get very upset, they tend to get very mad. Because, after all, ‘who is this newcomer to come and take over part of our field?’

And that’s what Fox News did and as a result of that there is a lot of animosity for Ailes who’s an unabashed partisan, he’s a Republican. You know he worked for Nixon, he worked for Reagan, he worked for the first Bush. And he makes no bones about the fact that he’s not on the same side as the mainstream media politically. So the criticism of Roger is not as an executive. He’s a brilliant executive, he obviously is a visionary executive in the sense that he created the number-one cable network out of nothing. Well I wouldn’t say nothing because he created it out of Rupert Murdoch’s money. But Rupert Murdoch’s money and his vision. The criticism is that he doesn’t conform to the company line or the tribal narrative on you know, news stories.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah, well I think that’s right. It’s fascinating to me because it seems many journalists who lean leftward, they seem to think that admitting that fact that there’s almost no Republicans or conservatives in the mediathey seem to think that admitting that means that the people who are in the media are out and out cheerleaders for Democrats, which those are two very distinct propositions. And yet they seem to blur them entirely when they consider it with regard to Fox News though because Roger Ailes is a Republican is biased therefore everything that Fox News does of course is biased but if Rick Kaplan is a Democrat that doesn’t mean CNN is biased or ABC or whatever.

CHAFETS: And Ted Turner was the founder and Time Warner, which is a Democratic company with Democratic with a large “D” as the owners. Or for example the Sulzberger family which is a Democratic family and has been for generations. But of course the New York Times isn’t biased because, as we all know, the New York Times is the paper of record and the reason it’s the paper of record is because that all of the other media take it as the paper in record. And of course the people who work at the other media outlets are all or virtually all Democrats. So you know it’s a self-completing circle.

And I think our reporters are somewhat deluded about this. I had reporters tell me you know, no one has ever told me how to report a story on whatever topic it is. Which just makes me laugh, of course nobody has to tell you how to report a story.

If you work for a liberal organization then you understand you know, it has a narrative. Somebody who goes out and reports against the narrative will not last at that organization. And reporters are supposed to be smart enough to figure something like that out, it’s true with any big organization.

So yes, it’s true that news organizations, you know good ones—and I would include the New York Times in that and certainly Fox News—give some latitude to reporters, not everything is monolithic, but they certainly have directions. And those directions don’t come from some commissar, whether it’s the New York Times or it’s Roger Ailes at Fox. They come from the general atmosphere of the place, they come from the hires that they make and ways in which people are promoted, and the way that people are not promoted, and it becomes perfectly clear to people what is required and those things are—that’s what gives various news networks personality but, the Fox personality is different because, because the other ones are all so similar to each other.

SHEFFIELD: It sounds like then as though your perspective on Fox is that it’s as conservative as the Times is liberal. Is that what you’re saying?

CHAFETS: I didn’t mention it exactly but, you know, it’s as predictable—first of all, Fox has more voices than the New York Times does. There’s 24, or something like that, liberal commentators at Fox and probably twice that many conservatives.

But under the New York Times there’s virtually no one on the op-ed page that is a real conservative. David Brooks was hired, David Brooks is theoretically a conservative but, and he’s a very fine writer, he’s a very talented guy but you know they used to have Bill Safire in that job and Bill Safire was an actual real conservative and the differences are very telling.

So I don’t think it’s a real criticism in a sense of publication or networks to say that they are liberal or conservative. They simply are what they are. I think only a moron would doubt that they New York Times, is essentially a conservative [sic] publication. So is, for example, is the New Yorker or the Nation magazine or New York magazine or the Washington Post and onward and onward. I mean there’s no reason to deny that. It’s not an accusation, it’s simply an observation that anyone, any reader would make. The same thing with MSNBC, it’s clearly a leaning to the left operation, as Fox is a leaning to the right operation.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Although I think it would be fair to say that MSNBC is a far more hostile place toward conservatives than Fox is toward liberals.

CHAFETS: I don’t know, I’ve never worked at MSNBC, I’ve been on the air one time to discuss the Limbaugh book. I’ll give them credit; they were the only ones, the only network that put me on for the Limbaugh book. But you know, I don’t tend to look at it in terms of hostility because—

SHEFFIELD: Well then let’s say hospitable.

CHAFETS: Different positions and different degrees of positions and you know that’s a healthy thing you know. There are unpolarized media only in dictatorships.

SHEFFIELD: Speaking of Limbaugh, let’s go back to Ailes’s first involvement with him. The Rush Limbaugh TV show, tell us a little more of how the show came to be and what it was like for Ailes running it and why they ended the whole thing.

CHAFETS: In those days, Roger Ailes was a political consultant who was getting ready to leave political consulting and perhaps had already even left it and was looking to get back into television which was how he began his career as a producer of the Mike Douglas Show, the variety, the daytime variety show.

And he was doing some free-lance TV production and he was doing producing at networks from time to time different kinds of programs and he went to 21 one night, to the restaurant 21, and Limbaugh was there and Limbaugh came over and introduced himself. Rush had just started as national voice out of New York at the time.

And Rush told him, it’s in the book by the way, this encounter, that he was thrilled that Roger Ailes, the great Roger Ailes from the Nixon years and the Reagan years and George H.W. Bush years even knew who he was. And Roger said, ‘Yeah my wife listens to you,’ she likes your show and Rush was delighted. And they sat down and had a conversation and at some point one of them said, ‘you know you should be on TV,’ or maybe Rush said, ‘I should be on TV,’ or I don’t remember.

And they decided to explore the possibility and that’s what happened. Ailes became the producer, executive producer, Rush subsequently told me that they were on for I think three years, I’m not sure. They were reasonably successful, there was syndication. Rush said that, that that show provided a template for Fox News’s evening broadcasting and Ailes told me that Rush was very good on TV and could have a show tomorrow on Fox or on any other network probably, or many other networks. But he that doesn’t like collaboration, TV is too collaborative for Rush Limbaugh, he’s a lone wolf. And Ailes of course is a master impresario and coach and collaborationist. And you know, that’s probably the biggest difference between the two of them professionally.


SHEFFIELD: Moving on to another thing in the book, one of the stories I thought was interesting was the discussion about a newspaper Roger Ailes purchased in New York, a local newspaper. He went and bought it. Tell us a little bit about why he did and the reaction to of the locals to that.

CHAFETS: Well, Ailes was moved up to Cold Spring which is a town across the Hudson from West Point. It’s a town with a lot of, a lot of of art and a lot of environmentalist institutions and so forth. And part of its population is made up of residents who’ve been there for a long time and not especially liberal and progressive and there was also a faction of the town that was quite horrified to find out that Roger Ailes was moving in.

Roger’s wife, Beth, is a former producer, executive producer at CNBC, in fact that’s how they met, when Roger was running CNBC before Fox News. And there was a newspaper, the Putnam County paper and they decided to buy it and Beth would be the editor-in-chief, which certainly accorded with her professional experience and that’s what happened.

Now there were people in the town who very much opposed the idea of Roger Ailes or Roger Ailes’s wife having any sort of a voice in the community. They thought the newspaper would subvert the values they believed in and one of them—a guy named Gordon Stewart, who was a former speech writer for Jimmy Carter among his other many accomplishments—had started a rival news organization I guess it’s online it may have a print side to it, I don’t know.

And it’s been quite controversial, the New Yorker magazine at one point wrote a—Peter Boyer [currently editor-at-large of Fox News but formerly of the New Yorker and Newsweek] who’s a marvelous journalist—wrote a very interesting article about the effort to shut down the Ailes newspaper. You know some newspaper war that was taking place up there and that’s what, you know, I know about it.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah, one of the things that I thought was interesting though is that his purchasing of the paper was very emblematic of his approach to media because you know the Roger Ailes approach to media is if you don’t like the media then create your own or buy your own. That has set him very much from apart from a lot of other conservatives. Why do you think that’s been?

CHAFETS: First Roger is a guy who likes to build things; he’s very good at it. He’s got an enormous amount of experience with you people you know at levels where people do things, do big things, and think big and he’s a big thinker. When he got up to, you know, I don’t think that he disliked necessarily the local newspaper. I just think he thought that it would be a good thing to own, a good way to integrate himself into the community, a good way for his wife to be, you know, to able to exercise her own journalistic background and abilities and I think he was rather a taken aback by the reaction to it. It’s not a bad paper, it’s a good paper, for its size it’s relatively small. It’s far from what you’d call an ideological newspaper, it’s a community paper, but you know anything that’s attached to Roger Ailes can be a bit of a red flag for a certain kind of consumer and I don’t think, does that answer your question?

SHEFFIELD: Yeah I think it does, although the second part of it was, what do you think and maybe you don’t want to get this far into it but, his approach was different from other conservatives who basically have you know, with very, very few exceptions have not really gotten into media. I wondered sometimes if the idea of journalism, the industry of journalism being so overwhelmingly Democratic is simply a problem of self-selection.

CHAFETS: I think to a certain extent it is. But don’t forget this, Roger because he was a political consultant and worked on maybe 140, 150 political campaigns over the years knew the media, from a very interesting perspective. He knew reporters and he knew editors because he worked with them, he manipulated them, he spun them. He was, he saw their good sides and their bad sides, he traveled with them. He was close to that world and he understand both the strengths and the weaknesses of that world and the people who are in it.

And he understood the hypocrisy of the news media and the pretentiousness of the news media and he knew things that he realized could be turned around and used to good effect. And he wasn’t afraid as I think many conservatives are—he wasn’t afraid of the media and he wasn’t afraid of the people who are in the media.

And he knew probably that he was looked down upon as a conservative but he was not looked down upon as a political operative, he knew that he was one of the best. So I think that conservatives have a bit of an inferiority complex when it comes to the media. And you know, they say that they don’t care how they’re portrayed but that really isn’t true. But Roger was a little bit of a different type of cat; he knew what the media was up to and he knew how to turn it around on them and didn’t feel and kind of inferiority to the people that he deals with on the other side of the ideological media line.

SHEFFIELD: All right, well speaking though of the conflicts that Ailes has had, there’s been a lot of discussion against Fox News on the part of the Obama White House and there’s some been some big controversy in there. And there’s been, in the book you quote Fox News anchor, Bret Baier, as saying that he thought that some of that was simply for show for the White House base, just elaborate a little bit more on that quote.

CHAFETS: Well you know the White Houses have traditionally tried to demonize their opponents in the media whether they’re Republican presidents or Democratic presidents. In this case, Democratic presidents usually have a little less trouble with the media for obvious reasons, but the Obama White House especially from the very beginning, was adamantly hostile to you know, not only to Fox News but to AM radio, talk radio., especially Rush Limbaugh. And he called him out by name and often. And this is popular with the Democratic base—with part of the Democratic base who want Republican-leaning news or in this case of Rush more than leaning, demonized or excluded or marginalized.

Now at the same time there are people at the White House who work with the president every day and they see the quality of some of the Fox reporters down there you know and they say that a guy like Bret Baier or Brit Hume or Ed Henry you know many of the people I talk to for the book, I could cite now, are among the very best reporters around, they’re very straight, very fair, and fair-minded. And so they get quite a bit of cooperation even though the rhetoric can be very anti-Fox, anti-Ailes.


SHEFFIELD: Do you think that there is a lot of conflation between the Fox News commentators with the Fox News reporters on the left?

CHAFETS: Well sure, just as in—I think a lot of people conflate the editorial pages of the New York Times with the rest of the New York Times. And I think that just like Fox says we’re straight news during the day and opinion at night, yes and no.

They are straight news especially at the 6 o’clock broadcast [hosted by Bret Baier]. But they have a lot of straight news people there but, they come from a kind of sensibility, let’s call it and the New York Times is the same.

There’s nothing more predictable than the New York Times editorials, they could be written by a machine. And there are certainly reporters at the Times that report sort of differently than the tone and the content of the editorial page. But in general it’s fair to say that if you take the time every day and look at the stories that are selected for the front page and the way that they’re approached they tend to have a rather uniformly progressive favor to them. And I think that’s a reasonable thing to say about Fox as well, you know, from the other direction.

SHEFFIELD: You mentioned earlier in our conversation some of your discussions with some people who work within the television industry. And you know, you cite some of the people who are friends with Roger Ailes, such as MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow or Rick Kaplan, the very big liberal guy.

CHAFETS: Former head of MSNBC and CNN.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah and also previously at ABC.

CHAFETS: Right.

SHEFFIELD: So, and I thought it was, can you tell us a little bit about why he seems to have such a diverse amount of people, a large number of Liberals who actually like him.

CHAFETS: Well, let’s look at the rivalry of the political professional; political professionals tend not to be, to get bent out of shape by opponents. They tend not to locate all virtue and all vice in their positions and their opponents’ positions. And at the end of the day you have a drink in the bar with a reporter or you know you go out to dinner with your colleagues and consultants from the other side, that’s how that business works. Roger has a lot of charm, he’s a charming guy, he likes people and many people like him.

He was close to the Kennedy family and last winter he went down to Palm Springs for two days, one day he spent at Rush Limbaugh’s house and one day he spent at Ethel Kennedy’s house. One of Ethel Kennedy’s sons, works for Roger so did Mario Cuomo’s son at CNBC, Chris Cuomo. When John F. Kennedy Jr. died, he was negotiating with Ailes over a talk show at Fox, I don’t know that that’s very widely known. Jesse Jackson’s daughter works at Fox and Jesse Jackson’s a longtime friend of Rogers and he gave the keynote speech at Fox News just a couple of months ago at the Ailes apprentice program [for minority journalists]. One of Michael Dukakis’s nephews worked for Roger; I mean I can go on and on.

The idea that Fox News is a place where—Bob Beckel is another example, Pat Cadell is another example. You know there are a lot of former Democrats over there. Dick Morris when Roger first knew him was working for Democrats it’s, in that sense, it’s pretty apolitical.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah and you quoted somebody, and I forget who it was, in the book, saying that Fox has more liberal commentators on the air than all the other channels do [conservatives] put together.

CHAFETS: Yeah I think that’s fair and Roger in his sort of Ailes-esque way has kind of done jujitsu on these talk shows’ make up. You know “The Five” for example, which is a show at five o’clock has normally four panelists who are conservative and one panelist who’s a Democrat. Four Republicans and one Democrat or four conservatives and one liberal. Which is, turns on its head the usual format in broadcast TV where there will be a panel discussion and there will be one conservative and three liberals and a liberal moderator. And this is the kind of thing that he likes doing. And it makes people sputter on the other side.

SHEFFIELD: One person, Chris Matthews over at MSNBC, he used to work for Roger Ailes. Tell us a little about that time period.

CHAFETS: You know, Roger was the president of CNBC and then he started America’s Talking, I think that’s where Matthews actually worked which became the forerunner really, of in a way of Fox. Not in terms of its politics but in terms of the idea that you could hold an audience with talk shows. And Matthews had been at one of the San Francisco newspapers. And Roger thought he had potential as a TV guy. And I asked him not long ago what he thought about Matthews and he just said that if he, Roger, were producing Matthews these days, Matthews would talk less.

SHEFFIELD: Hmm. Well it seems that since he stopped working for Ailes you know whether it’s his natural tendency or whether it’s his own view points. He’s gotten far, far more liberal in his commentary.

CHAFETS: He’s a Democratic Party man. He worked for Tip O’Neill, Tip O’Neill was, if he were alive for one minute right now and looked at the Democratic Party of today, he would be astonished, I think. And I guess the term of art for this is evolved and I think Chris Matthews has evolved along with the base of the Democratic Party.

SHEFFIELD: One other little historical angle I thought was fascinating was this venture in the 1970’s or early 80’s I forget, that Ailes was involved in called Television News Incorporated. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about what that was?

CHAFETS: You know, I can only tell you a little bit because I don’t really know a great deal but I do know it was founded by the Coors people, Coors Brewing people and the idea was that they would produce conservative news and news from a conservative point of view, this was before satellites if I’m not mistaken, the idea was to syndicate the material and it was a project that Roger was brought in as a consultant and given the authority to hire and fire. And he fired quite a few people and hired quite a few others but he wasn’t there very long because the whole enterprise didn’t last very long.

One of the people that he hired there or he kept there, I’m blurry on this detail was Charlie Gibson [of ABC News], who started out there. I think he also, let me leave it at that because I’m not recalling all of the details and I don’t want to mislead anybody.


SHEFFIELD: There’s this big mythos surrounding old television characters like Eric Sevareid, Ed Murrow or Cronkite, that they were somehow these paragons of objectivity and whatnot.

And of course that’s all nonsense but one of the other things particularly regarding Murrow, that Ailes has been criticized for is that he has somehow debased television by making it more entertainment-based. But, the people who say that don’t seem to recall the old show that Ed Murrow had which was called “Person to Person” which was basically a celebrity interview show.

CHAFETS: And you know, there were others. Television news has gone from being shorter to being longer and from being black and white to being color. And from being less entertaining to more entertaining across the board. And it’s gone from being virtually a radio broadcast on television to being its own animal. And Roger has, because he’s a maestro of television production has out-produced the other cable networks for sure. I think you could argue and say even he leads the broadcast networks just in terms of TV production values. Amongst the list of things that he’s blamed for, you know, having exciting news, having good-looking anchors and the rest of it, these are just simply taking things that already existed in other places and simply doing it better.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Well, OK and I guess just for the last question here, is that, is that the real legacy of Roger Ailes or is it more his, the political stuff?

CHAFETS: No. I mean the political stuff is historical stuff by now. It’s certainly, his legacy. The George H.W. Bush presidency was due I think primarily, or to a very large measurable to Roger Ailes. So you could call that more than anything else his political legacy, you could also say that part of his legacy was that he taught people how to use TV to campaign with in the Nixon Administration and he set the tone and style which is still used even today certainly by the Obama Administration who learned from Ailes how you use a controlled an audience, and how you stay on message, and how you create and how you stage events and all the rest of it.

But, I think his greater legacy will be Fox News because there wasn’t an animal like Fox News before, the entire country was eating vanilla ice cream and along came somebody with chocolate ice cream and he was the only place you could get it and that’s quite a thing.

And now, people say that Fox has polarized the news amongst other things and that’s sour grapes, to mix my food metaphors. He, he simply gave people an alternative, and nobody forces anyone to see the alternative and it’s uncomfortable for people who have lived their all their life with only one narrative, to confront a second narrative which actually makes some sense. And you know it might not always be right either. But it has value and it’s difficult for some people to concede that anything they don’t agree with has value.

And Roger has forced people to see that even if they don’t like it. I think that is his legacy, I mean what he has built at Fox will outlive him. And if Fox itself changes, somebody else will do what Fox is doing. And before Roger there was no such thing as that, so to me doing something unique is really more of a guarantor of a legacy than simply doing some usual thing better than other people have.

But Fox News is something that people will remember Roger Ailes for the same way people remember that Roone Arledge at ABC News and [William] Paley is remembered at CBS, I think that Roger will be remembered along those lines.

Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield, creator of NewsBusters and president of Dialog New Media, an internet marketing and design firm, left NewsBusters at the end of 2013