Political Animal


September 26, 2011 12:40 PM Roger Ailes and ‘straight journalism’

By Steve Benen

Howard Kurtz has an interesting piece on Fox News chief Roger Ailes and the Republican operative’s efforts to “steer the election agenda one more time,” which has plenty of notable tidbits. But I was especially struck by Ailes’ cognitive dissonance.

As the Fox News leader sees it, the Republican cable news network isn’t “in someone’s pocket.” What’s more, he’s convinced that “the mainstream press” will push negative pieces about the Republican presidential candidates as a precursor to killing them off.”

Ailes added, “America used to be able to get straight journalism.” The irony apparently went unnoticed.

Ailes has a blunt rejoinder to those who say he runs a biased outfit: “Every other network has given all their shows to liberals. We are the balance.” Even MSNBC morning host Joe Scarborough, a former GOP congressman, “tacks to the center,” Ailes complains, and “doesn’t act like a conservative.”

That’s quite a paragraph. Ailes rejects allegations of bias, but he freely admits being the “balance” against “liberals,” and criticizes a former conservative congressman who gets three hours a day on MSNBC for not being conservative enough.

The same piece explained that Ailes feels compelled to bring in Shep Smith for “a friendly talk” when he backs aspects of the Obama administration’s record, and pushes the Fox News team to run pieces against government regulations, telling producers that bureaucrats have hired Ph.D.s to “sit in the basement and draw up regulations to try to ruin your life.”

This guy laments the rarity of “straight journalism” in America?

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • slappy magoo on September 26, 2011 12:48 PM:

    Who is more to blame, the guy who abuses the power, or the millions of people who gave the guy that power to begin with? And continues to give it to him every damn day

  • Trollop.0 on September 26, 2011 12:48 PM:

    Like the stupid ad says to the right, "It takes a veteran to understand a veteran"..

  • stormskies on September 26, 2011 12:52 PM:

    Roger Ailes in nothing more than a malignant tumor on the asshole of Lucifer itself .......

    This malignant tumor should be treated for the cancer that he is ...

    This malignant tumor called Roger Ailes is the very embodiment of what is wrong with our country ... starting with being morbidly obese ..........

  • kevo on September 26, 2011 1:04 PM:

    A new book Ailes would have all the rights to would be entitled, How to Politicize Empiricism!

    Ailes is as delusional as one could possibly be, and still be able to earn a dollar from the gullability of the American public. To Ailes, empirical evidence, discernable patterns and circumstances and facts have inherent liberal biases!

    What a coward posuer he is, and what damage he's single-handedly done to an open and liberty-minded society such as ours! -Kevo

  • c u n d gulag on September 26, 2011 1:06 PM:

    I'm starting a new movement aimed at Roger and Rush:

    "Double-Extra-Bacon-Cheese-Burgers With Cheesey Chili Fries and Gallon of Jolt Cola for Conservatives in the MSM.

  • Daryl McCullough on September 26, 2011 1:08 PM:

    It occurred to me that Ailes' notion of balance in journalism is something like the adversarial approach taken by lawyers in a criminal trial. The prosecutor brings up arguments and evidence against the defendant, and has no obligation to temper his claims by bringing up contrary evidence or mitigating circumstances. Balance in the courtroom is provided by the defense attorney, who is responsible for pointing out weaknesses in the prosecution's case and for bringing up evidence of his client's innocence.

    Ailes seems to think (or pretends to think) that balance in journalism can be achieved the same way. You have journalists committed to conservative ideals, who only point out the successes of conservatism and the arguments in its favor, and only point out failures of liberalism and arguments against it. For balance, you have liberal journalists committed to defending liberalism and liberals and attacking conservatism and conservatives.

    One flaw in this idea is that if the public is the jury, there is nobody to play the role of judge, to make sure that the sides are being honest and not making up evidence. The other flaw is that the "liberal" media didn't get the memo that this is what political journalists are supposed to do. The mainstream "liberal" media still has this idea that it must provide its own balance, and for each argument attacking conservatives, they have to provide a corresponding argument defending them, or attacking liberals.

    Liberal media and conservative media are not playing the same game, and they aren't playing by the same rules.

  • DAY on September 26, 2011 1:09 PM:

    Roger Ailes channels Dick Nixon, prowling the White House halls at midnight, talking to the portraits. . .

  • doubtful on September 26, 2011 1:13 PM:

    One of these days, Shep Smith will write a book about those 'friendly talks.'

  • POed Lib on September 26, 2011 1:29 PM:

    Why do these morons still have press credentials at the WH?

  • Nathan on September 26, 2011 1:30 PM:

    Ailes argues in 1972 that conservatives couldn't get a fair shake in the media.

    He's just a liar.

  • AK Liberal on September 26, 2011 1:31 PM:

    That is an astonishing lack of self-awareness. It is ignorance personified.

  • DRF on September 26, 2011 1:31 PM:

    On one item at least, Ailes is probably correct. The Fox News network isn't in "someone's pocket" (unless that someone happens to be Ailes himself or Rupert Murdoch). I think that the power relationships go the other way--Fox calls the tune and the Republican Party's nominal leadership dances to it. It seems that a number of the Fox commentators and news editors take cues from Rush Limbaugh, but not because he exercises any direct power over them, but because they look to him as a source of ideas and views.

    Other than the above, Ailes appears to be either deeply dishonest or delusional. As a long-time media professional, he ought to know that what he terms the "mainstream" press isn't liberal, and attempts to bend over backwards to convey the two sides to every issue and controversy (regardless of the perceived merits). Sure, the NYT displays some liberal bias in its selection of stories to cover, but it still makes sure to give a hearing to both sides. There's simply no comparison between how the mainstream media cover the political news and how Fox News does it.

    Even if one doesn't bother to analyze the content of the mainstream press's coverage, the simple fact that most of those media outlets receive about equal amounts of criticism from the left and the right should be a pretty good indication of its general attempt to achieve balance and fairness in coverage. I don't recall seeing any criticism from the right of Fox News' bias in coverage.

  • Ron Byers on September 26, 2011 1:41 PM:

    Did Howie recognize the irony or did he just act as a stenographer?

  • FRP on September 26, 2011 1:49 PM:

    You feel dirty one way or another . Allowing what Mr Benen is kind enough to call cognitive dissonance to echo from its tiny chamber to the increasingly polluted sea of air , or to take arms against a C student .
    Is it really kindness though to continually permit one who chooses to distinguish through such painful personal problems without identifying the personal issue , or pathologies like , paranoia , monomania , narcissism , or if you will , the insatiable urge for mixed nutsology every conscious and unconscious moment .
    Is charitable to permit the skunk in the medium to pass off every unpleasant matter as the little family problem , distorting understandings of the fundamentals , until the entire nation is impotent in fact to deal with , fergawdsakes , flood , fire , and storm ? We have now fussed away the middle class with the nattering perception of burdensome regulations and and taxes to the point of pathos twenty years ago . The repeal of Glass-Steagal put the finishing touches on any possible use for the SEC . Bernie Madoff had a good run . My memory of the physical arrogance of Robert Allen Stanford and old Bernie is only possible in a culture that sneers at exactly what Roger Ailes is balancing . Dignity is not a museum piece , and the common sense to recognise that the fox guarding the hen house has only one weakness .
    Some problems are better left to fester in isolation , others require sterilization . If the community health is threatened why is it so difficult to place the offending polluters in a nice safe confinement . N Korea , and Iran , is what we end up aping when personalities control the perception of events .
    I remember the old phrase "We are a nation of laws not men" , well it appears we can retire the spirit of that and return "Hail Caesar" to daily use .

  • stormskies on September 26, 2011 1:54 PM:

    c u n d gulag

    love it, go for it !

  • Johnny Canuck on September 26, 2011 2:12 PM:

    Ailes added, “America used to be able to get straight journalism.” The irony apparently went unnoticed.

    In memorable words that he is apparently too modest to repeat:

    Conservatives suffer from an irony deficiency.

    (c u n d gulag on September 25, 2011 9:36 AM)

  • c u n d gulag on September 26, 2011 2:17 PM:

    Johnny Canuck,
    Thanks! :-)

    I went for the cheap cheeseburger joke this time.

  • Rasputin22 on September 26, 2011 3:15 PM:

    Ailes is living proof for the notion that when conservatives complain about liberal media bias, what they really are deploring is the absence of conservative media bias.

  • mike reilly on September 26, 2011 3:51 PM:

    In the next breath, Ailes lamented the fact that someone had eaten a carton of strawberry ice cream in the Fox News kitchen fridge and is calling in Shep for another friendly chat.

  • Redshift on September 26, 2011 5:27 PM:

    You don't understand! Conservatives have to do these underhanded things because they're sure liberals are already doing them (even though they have no actual evidence), and if they don't cheat, then liberals will have an unfair advantage! Biased media, election law, using government to pay off supporters, it's the same in every area!