OFF THE GRID

Roger Ailes, Rupert Murdoch, and How I Became a Non-Person at the New York Times

Jan 11, 10 | 6:18 AM   byMichael Wolff
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Fox business anchor Neil Cavuto, left, Rupert Murdoch, and Roger Ailes
Oomph. The first three paragraphs in the lead story in the Sunday New York Times, a profile of Fox News Chief Roger Ailes, are about my biography of Rupert Murdoch, The Man Who Owns the News—but it would be hard to know that.

In the fall of 2008 an angry Ailes, the Times says, went to Murdoch because he was mad about a report that Murdoch was going to endorse Barack Obama for president and because “he had read a book excerpt in Vanity Fair” that said Murdoch was embarrassed by Fox News. (Actually, these were not separate issues, as the Times indicates, rather both facts came from the book excerpt.)

Anyway, that’s it, “book excerpt in Vanity Fair.” The article, by David Carr and Tim Arango, in a most peculiar bit of journalistic legerdemain, doesn’t mention the book’s title or me. That’s what happens when you get on the wrong side of the Times, whose business troubles and mismanagement I’ve written lots about, and its reporters—I regularly make fun of Carr for being the newsroom’s official teacher’s pet. They disappear you.

During the meeting with Murdoch, “Mr. Ailes threatened to quit, a person familiar with the conversation said,” according to the Times. That person was me. Tim Arango interviewed me for the piece and that’s what I told him—happily told him and invited him to use my name. The Times turned a willing public source into a blind quote because it doesn’t want to give the source credit.

Among the reasons the Times hates Roger Ailes is because he uses the media he controls to punish his enemies… Well, damn.

And, what’s more, while the Times makes me (or my shadow) the lead, it misses the real one. Midway in the story, Carr and Arango mention the antagonism between the Murdoch children and Ailes. The article quotes Matthew Freud (I advised Arango to call Freud), Murdoch’s son-in-law, using, practically speaking, the most extreme language possible to disparage Ailes, suggesting that the family is “ashamed and sickened by Roger’s horrendous and sustained disregard of the journalistic standards that News Corporation, its founder and every other global media business aspires to.”

Huh? Matthew Freud, a PR man of extraordinary craftiness, almost never gets quoted. When he does, it means something. When he does, he’s doing it at the behest and interest of the Murdoch family.

What you heard was a declaration of war.

There are, practically speaking, now two factions inside of News Corp., Ailes and Fox News, and the Murdoch children—with Rupert caught between them. Ailes is the big money maker inside of News Corp.—all the more meaningful during a recession and when his boss, Rupert Murdoch, has hitched his star to the newspaper business and the failing Wall Street Journal—and Ailes’ power has risen accordingly (this summer and fall he helped push out COO Peter Chernin and Rupert’s flack and aide, Gary Ginsberg—both Democrats). But he can’t last against the enmity of Rupert’s children.

Murdoch sometimes tries to resist his children; he believes, for the sake of the dollar, he sometimes must. But he thinks they are the most brilliant people on earth and he is desperate to be loved and adored by them (as they are by him). And, what’s more, he’ll shortly be 79—and shortly the four votes of his four adult children will control the company (and Ailes’ fate). Also, his wife, Wendi, hates Ailes. Indeed, Rupert himself doesn’t like Ailes—except for the money he makes him. (One curious question is whether Rupert knew in advance about the Freud statement—that is, whether it’s Rupert himself dissing Ailes.)

Of course, in the short term, Ailes will retaliate for the public diss.

Anyway, the Times can steal my stories—but can’t get them right.

More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at VanityFair.com, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at michael@newser.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: @MichaelWolffNYC.
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OFF THE GRID is about why the news is the news. Here are the real motivations of both media and newsmakers. Here's the backstory. This is a look at the inner workings of desperate media, the inner life of the publicity crazed, and the true meaning of the news of the day.

 

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