New York Times critic Michiko Kakutani is out with a scathing review of Roger Ailes: Off Camera, a new biography of the Fox News president released Tuesday.
Kakutani slammed biographer Zav Chafets’ “soft-focused” look at Ailes. Chafets also wrote a 2010 biography of Rush Limbaugh. And, like in “Rush Limbaugh: An Army Of One,” Kakutani suggested that Chafets didn’t try to push the envelope with Ailes on anything that could be considered controversial.
The overall book, however, reads like a long, soft-focus, poorly edited magazine article. For the most part Mr. Chafets serves as little more than a plastic funnel for Mr. Ailes’s observations — much as he did for Rush Limbaugh in his 2010 book “Rush Limbaugh: Army of One.” Although Mr. Chafets supplies a tiny bit of context here and there, he doesn’t ask his subject many tough questions about Fox News’s incestuous relationship with the Republican Party, its role in accelerating partisanship in our increasingly polarised society or the consequences of its often tabloidy blurring of the lines between news and entertainment.
Kakutani goes on to criticise Chafets for painting many familiar anecdotes from Ailes’ own book and past media appearances as surprises. Moreover, Kakutani wrote that Chafets does not seem to grasp the overarching theme of his biography and apply it to his own reporting:
Weirdly enough Mr. Chafets does not seem to have absorbed Mr. Ailes’s lessons about playing offence. Much of the later part of this book devolves into an oddly defensive attempt to rebut charges that have been levied against Fox News by critics on the left. Mr. Chafets answers jokes by Jon Stewart and other comics about the “dumb blondes” of Fox News by reciting the university and career credentials of various beauty queens and runway models who work there, and writing that Megyn Kelly is “both blond and brainy, and she has made good use of her glamour-girl image.” There are not a lot of black viewers in Fox’s audience, Mr. Chafets acknowledges; his response is to quote black journalists at Fox talking about the lack of racism there and its “postracial” environment.
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