The onetime Nixon operative has created the most profitable propaganda machine in history. Inside America's Unfair and Imbalanced Network
In recent years, Ailes has increasingly become a headache for News Corp. In 2004, to protect his pal Rudy Giuliani, Ailes apparently interceded in the case of Bernie Kerik, the former New York police commissioner who had been nominated on Giuliani’s recommendation to head the Department of Homeland Security. Kerik proved to be a train wreck: In the most offensive of his indiscretions, he had commandeered an apartment overlooking Ground Zero – intended for rescue and recovery workers – as a love shack for trysts with his book editor, News Corp.’s own Judith Regan. Acting more like a political consultant than a news executive, Ailes appears to have resorted to Watergate-style obstruction of justice. According to court documents, the Fox News chairman “told Regan that he believed she had information about Kerik that, if disclosed, would harm Giuliani’s presidential campaign.” The records reveal that Ailes “advised Regan to lie to, and to withhold information from, investigators concerning Kerik.” The allegation featured prominently in a wrongful-termination lawsuit brought by Regan, which reportedly cost News Corp. more than $10 million to settle.
Many within Murdoch’s family have come to viscerally hate Ailes. Murdoch’s third wife, Wendi, has worked to soften her husband’s politics, and his son James has persuaded him to embrace the reality of global warming – even as Ailes has led the drumbeat of climate deniers at Fox News. Matthew Freud, Murdoch’s son-in-law and a top PR executive in Britain, recently told reporters, “I am by no means alone within the family or the company in being ashamed and sickened by Roger Ailes’ horrendous and sustained disregard of the journalistic standards that News Corporation, its founder and every other global media business aspires to.”
“Rupert is surrounded by people who regularly, if not moment to moment, tell him how horrifying and dastardly Roger is,” says Wolff, the Murdoch biographer. “Wendi cannot stand Roger. Rupert’s children cannot stand Roger. So around Murdoch, Roger has no supporters, except for Roger himself.”
Ailes begins each workday buffered by the elaborate private security detail that News Corp. pays to usher him from his $1.6 million home in New Jersey to his office in Manhattan. (His country home – in the aptly named village of Garrison – is phalanxed by empty homes that Ailes bought up to create a wider security perimeter.) Traveling with the Chairman is like a scene straight out of 24. A friend recalls hitching a ride with Ailes after a power lunch: “We come out of the building and there’s an SUV filled with big guys, who jump out of the car when they see him. A cordon is formed around us. We’re ushered into the SUV, and we drive the few blocks to Fox’s offices, where another set of guys come out of the building to receive ‘the package.’ The package is taken in, and I’m taken on to my destination.”Ailes is certain that he’s a top target of Al Qaeda terrorists. “You know, they’re coming to get me,” he tells friends. “I’m fully prepared. I’ve taken care of it.” (Ailes, who was once arrested for carrying an illegal handgun in Central Park, now carries a licensed weapon.) Inside his blast-resistant office at Fox News headquarters, Ailes keeps a monitor on his desk that allows him to view any activity outside his closed door. Once, after observing a dark-skinned man in what Ailes perceived to be Muslim garb, he put Fox News on lockdown. “What the hell!” Ailes shouted. “This guy could be bombing me!” The suspected terrorist turned out to be a janitor. “Roger tore up the whole floor,” recalls a source close to Ailes. “He has a personal paranoia about people who are Muslim – which is consistent with the ideology of his network.”